What is Tamarind Powder
Tamarind Powder (pronounced "TAM-uh-rihnd"), Tamarindus indica, is also called tamarind spice, dried tamarind, or tamarin spice.
Tamarind powder is made from dehydrated and ground tamarind. The flavor is highly concentrated and more intensely sweet and sour than fresh tamarind is. While Tamarind is indigenous to tropical Africa, it has been a key ingredient in Indian cooking and has become deeply entrenched in their culture.
The Tamarind tree produces edible pod-like fruits, and these large pods of the fruit contain small seeds and a sour-pulp that, when dried, becomes extremely sour.
What Is the Taste of Powdered Tamarind
A subtle tart flavor with fruity undertones, not overly bitter or sour.
What is Tamarind Powder Used For
Tamarind is used primarily as a souring agent to balance fiery hot dishes in South Indian fish curries, pork vindaloos, sambars (stews), rasams (soups), chutneys, vegetables, and jams. In Indonesia and Malaysia, it provides sweet sour notes to curries, sambals, and satay marinades. In Thailand, Tamarind is added to Pad Thai, salads, stir-fries, and tom yom soups (a hot and sour soup usually cooked with shrimp). In Chinese cuisine, it's found in hot and sour soups. In Vietnam, Tamarind is added to curries, soups, and stews. Tamarind is also popular in Latin America, and is found in Jamaican desserts and rice dishes, Mexican candies and Puerto Rican juice drinks.
Tamarind is also a great "secret ingredient" for homemade barbecue sauce, hot sauces, and marinades. Tamarind powder can be soaked in water which can then be added to any recipe to provide a sour kick to your taste buds.
Tamarind pairs well with black pepper, chiles, clove, galangal, garlic, ginger, palm sugar, peanuts, fermented shrimp paste, soy sauce, and turmeric.
What Can I Use in Place of Tamarind Powder
There is nothing that is quite like Tamarind powder, but in a pinch you can substitute Amchur with either lemon juice or lime juice. Amchur powder is from ground unripe, green mangoes and the flavor is a bit tart. Lemon or lime will give a bit of sourness as well but this will still not provide the same level of flavor complexity.
History of Tamarind
While the tamarind tree is native to tropical Africa, it was first identified and named in India1. The history of how this tree moved from Africa to India is a bit murky at best. For thousands of years, Arabian mariners and traders searched the east coast of Africa for ivory, exotic foods, and slaves, then transported these goods throughout the Middle East and into the Orient2.
Long before it was identified by botanists, food historians believe that it was on this trade route that Tamarind made its way to India. There it was adopted, cultivated and quickly spread across the sub-continent, becoming thought of as indigenous to the region and where it was first cataloged.
Wood charcoal identifications of tamarind come from the Ganges valley (a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through the nations of India and Bangladesh) that dates to around 1300 BC. Tamarind was mentioned in the Indian Brahma Samhita Scriptures (1200 and 200 BC) while cultivation of Tamarind has been documented in Egypt by 400 BC. The Peripatetic philosopher Theophrastus (370-287 BC) wrote about plants and two descriptions referred to Tamarind, his sources were probably from East Africa3.
Its botanical name Tamarindus indica is derived from the Arabic word tamr al-hindi meaning "the date of India"4. Persians and Arabs would also refer to this as Tamr hindi, which first appeared as an entry in the Arabic medical encyclopedia The Cannon of Medicine by Ibn Sina5 (980-1037 AD). Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age (700 – 1200 AD)6.
As is the case when several regions claim to be the indigenous home to a spice, it can be settled by determining which region has the greatest diversity of wild cultivars. The greatest variety of wild Tamarind cultivars have been found in the dry savannas of tropical Africa from Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and westward into sub-Sahelian Africa to Senegal lending credence to it being native to that part of the world7.
The first reference to Tamarind in the Americas is from Acapulco, Mexico in 1615, most likely introduced by the Spanish8. From Mexico, Tamarind made its way throughout tropical America and the Caribbean Islands. In 1797, Don Marin planted one of the first Tamarind trees in Hawaii at Little Greenwich in Pauoa Valley on the island of Oahu.9
The Tamarind tree is a tropical evergreen which grows to a height of about 80 feet with a spread of 40 feet. With small pale green oval leaves, it produces small clusters of yellow flowers with orange or red stripes that bloom in May and fruits from October to November. The cinnamon colored curved pods are brittle, irregular and bulbous in shape and reach a length of 2 to 7 inches long and are from ¾ to 1-1/4 inches in diameter10.
The tamarind is best adapted to semi-arid tropical and subtropical conditions. It also performs well in many humid tropics, providing there is a dry season that allows fruit ripening, and is well-adapted to arid regions. While the tree grows well and flowers in cooler areas, fruit will not set or develop. The maximum annual temperature range is 86-96°F, with a minimum of 48-64°F. A dry period is very important to stimulate heavy flowering and high yields. Dry weather is also needed during fruit ripening to avoid fruit spoilage. Rainfall or irrigation should be evenly distributed, with a mean annual water range of 20 - 60 inches required for growth. Tamarind can grow in a wide diversity of soil types, such as deep alluvial (along rivers, in floodplains and deltas), sandy, rocky and oolitic limestone11.
The tree begins to bear fruit at the age of 13-14 years and continues to yield abundant crops for more than 60 years. Tamarind fruits mature in early summer. They may be left on the tree for as long as 6 months after maturity so that the moisture content is reduced to 20% or lower. Harvesting of tamarind typically takes place between March 1st to April 15th. Fruits are harvested by pulling the pod away from the stalk. Once harvested the fruits are stored in a neat and clean place. The harvested pod should be sun dried for two days to get the best pulp. A full-grown tree will produce 400 – 500 lbs of fruit per season12.
India is the world largest producer of tamarind, with an estimated 300,000 tons produced annually, followed by Thailand (150,000 tons), and Mexico (29,600 tons)13.
Where is Our Tamarind Powder From
|Also Called||Tamarind spice, dried tamarind, or tamarin spice|
|Recommended Uses||Chutneys, fish curries, jams, pad Thai, vindaloos, salads, sumbars, rasams, Jamaican desserts, Mexican candies, and Puerto Rican juice drinks|
|Flavor Profile||A subtle tart flavor with fruity undertones, not overly bitter or sour|
|Botanical Name||Tamarindus indica|
|Cuisine||Indian, Indonesian, Jamaican, Mexican, Malaysian, Puerto Rican, Thai, and Vietnamese|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||6-12 months|
|Country of Origin||India|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Kosher, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
1, 3 Jain, A., Bhadoriya, S., Ganeshpurkar, A., Narwaria, J., & Rai, G. (2011). Tamarindus indica : Extent of explored potential. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 5(9), 73.
2 Freamon, B. K. (2019). Possessed by the Right Hand (Studies in Global Slavery). BRILL.
4 Katzer, G. (2012, February 29). Spice Pages: Tamarind (Tamarindus indica). Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
5 Avicenna (2015). Avicenna Canon of Medicine Complete Five Volume Set. Kazi Publications.
6 Corbin, H. (2016). Avicenna and the Visionary Recital: (Mythos Series) (Bollingen Series, 181). Princeton University Press.
7 Brandis, D. (2018). Indian Trees: An Account of Trees, Shrubs, Woody, Climbers, Bamboos, and Palms, Indigenous or Commonly Cultivated in the British Indian Empire (Classic Reprint). Forgotten Books.
8 Patino, V. M. (1969). Cultivated plants and domestic animals in equinoctial America.
9 Miller, C. D., Bazore, K., & Bartow, M. L. (1965). Fruits of Hawaii. Amsterdam University Press.
10 Morton, J. F., & Dowling, C. F. (1987). Fruits of Warm Climates. J.F. Morton.
11 Rojas-Sandoval, J. (2018, March 26). Tamarindus indica (tamarind). Cabi.Org. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
12 Tamarind. (n.d.). Banajata. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
13 Silva, F., Leite, M., Spadaro, A., Uyemura, S., & Maistro, E. (2009). Assessment of the potential genotoxic risk of medicinal Tamarindus indica fruit pulp extract using in vivo assays. Genetics and Molecular Research, 8(3), 1085–1092.
Serving Size1 tsp
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