Ever since I was a kid, tamarind chutney has been my favorite condiment. If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I love the combination of sweet-savory-spicy flavors. This must explain my love for tamarind chutney, which to me is the most exciting condiment in the Indian repertoire! Whether dipping samosas and other savory snacks into it or dousing salads with it as a dressing at Indian restaurant buffets (yes, I did that!), nothing could beat it! I'd been searching high and low for the perfect tamarind chutney recipe for years. Most of them require dates, which must be microwaved and pureed along with the tamarind. This is fine and well, but I don't always have dates on hand and wished that I could whip up a simple tamarind chutney anytime with stuff I that always have in my pantry. Thanks to the wonderful Suvir Saran and his American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen (which I just recently sang the praises of), now I can!
Tamarind, for those who may not be familiar, is a tree indigenous to Africa but which is also found in South and Southeast Asia and South America. The fruit of the tree is contained in hard brown pods which produce a juicy pulp that is sweet and sour in taste. This pulp is used in everything with Indian chutneys and sauces to Worcestershire sauce (I had no idea!) to jams and candies in the Caribbean to drinks everywhere from Mexico (agua de tamarindo, anyone?) and Latin America to Kenya. In South India, tamarind is a major ingredient in our cuisine, used in everything from rasam and sambhar to tamarind rice. The sweet-tart taste of tamarind is unmistakable and definitely delicious! Interestingly, tamarind is reputed the world over for its medicinal properties as well.
This chutney, as well as most Indian dishes requiring tamarind, uses the thick, black, tar-like tamarind concentrate that is readily in Indian groceries and other specialty stores. A jar of this will go a long away and last for quite a long time in your fridge...meaning that you can make this chutney anytime that the craving strikes you (regularly, in my case!). Make sure that you whip up a batch ASAP, as I will be featuring several recipes which make use of this chutney over the next few posts. You will be amazed at everything that you can do with tamarind chutney...it's definitely not just for serving alongside samosas!
Adapted from Suvir Saran
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and all of the spices. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for about a minute or until the spices become fragrant.
2. Add the water, sugar, and tamarind concentrate. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture becomes a dark brown color and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (this can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes). Keep in mind that the chutney will thicken more as it cools.
3. Cool and store in a tightly closed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.