Q: I needed tamarind for a Thai recipe but all the Asian Market had was a jar of concentrate cooking tamarind. What exactly is tamarind and how do I use this concentrate?
— Steve Reed, Akron
A: Tamarind is a tree native to Africa, but cultivated in India and other parts of Asia, the Middle East and Central America. Its fruit appears in large pods, which are used in a variety of international cuisines. They are sometimes called Indian dates.
The paste or concentrate of this fruit for cooking is very acidic. It is commonly used in Indian curries or chutneys to add an acidic or sour flavor, in much the same way one would use vinegar in a sauce or relish.
When left to get very ripe, tamarind fruit becomes sweeter and in this form is used for making confections in Mexico and the Caribbean. Tamarind also is a flavoring for fruit drinks in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
In your case, simply add the concentrate in the amount instructed in the Thai recipe that you are making. To use up the rest of your jar, look for Indian dishes where tamarind is a common ingredient.
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