Also known as Indian date, the tamarind is the fruit pod of a tall shade tree native to Asia and northern Africa and widely grown in India. The large (5- to 8-inch-long) pods grow in clusters and contain up to 10 seeds and a dark brown sour-sweet pulp with a flavor reminiscent of lemons, apricots and dates. Tamarind pulp concentrate is popular as a flavoring in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines much like lemon juice is in Western culture. It's used to season full-flavored foods such as chutneys, curry dishes and pickled fish. Additionally, tamarind is used to make a sweet syrup flavoring soft drinks. It's also an integral ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. Fresh tamarind pods are available in the spring and summer in Asian, Caribbean and Indian markets, specialty produce markets, natural food stores and some supermarkets. Choose pods that are plump and relatively unbroken. Store in a plastic bag at a cool room temperature for up to 2 months. To use pods, crack open and peel off the brittle shell. Pull off the fibrous strings and cut the pulp away from the seeds. Put the pulp in a bowl or pan and cover with boiling water; let stand for several hours or overnight. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the pulp out of the water; press the pulp through a sieve. Cover and refrigerate strained pulp for up to a month, or freeze for up to a year. Tamarind can be found in ethnic markets in various forms including jars of concentrated pulp with seeds, canned paste, whole pods dried into "bricks," syrup or powder.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.