One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to know the food by visiting local markets and shops. I think that one of the best ways to get a true sense of “place” is to eat what the locals eat where the locals eat it. While it may be daunting to walk into a packed Pintxos bar in Northern Spain, where the people are crammed shoulder to shoulder tightly grasping their small dishes brimming with tooth-picks and local delicacies caught up in deep conversation with at least ten of their closest friends or family (as if there is a difference), that’s the place you really must work your way into.
Here in Lafayette, though I’ve lived here now for six months, I still feel like a visitor walking around town trying to find my bearings. While I love the local farmer’s market, I was pleased to find a selection of Asian grocery stores all within 15 minutes of my house. China town in NYC was one of the areas Keegan and I loved to visit. The fish, the vegetables, all of it seemed so different from the selections at the typical grocery store. Much like a kid to a the candy store, I’m always drawn to the myriad spices displayed in a rainbow of colors, most of which I’ve never seen outside of a specialty shop.
Tamarind was always interesting to me. Those brown pods looked so mysterious and, yet, after trying a tamarind chutney for the first time, so tantalizing. I have yet to find something else that imitates the tangy-sweet sourness of the tamarind, which made my decision to buy the box I found at the Asian Market in Lafayette an easy one. But now, what to do with them?
I looked up a recipe for tamarind paste, something that I thought I could use in many dishes and would keep well in the fridge for a while. It was actually surprisingly easy to transform these pods into the deliciously tart tamarind paste I so coveted.
Here are the steps:
1. Buy dried tamarind pods (these can be purchased in almost any Asian/Chinese food store).
4. Remove from heat. Strain the liquid into a separate container (you will use this with your paste).
5. Then, use the back of a spoon (I used a pestle, but you could also use a potato masher to do the job) to mash the fruit through a strainer. Press the fruit through the strainer to get as much pulp as possible into the liquid while straining out the seeds. Your tamarind paste is now ready to use!
Note: Homemade pastes tend not to be as strong-tasting as the bottled variety, so you may need to add more to your recipe to achieve the same flavor.Now, anybody know some good recipes to make with tamarind paste?
Off to do more research!