More often than not, while cooking, we tend to find an ingredient or two missing from our kitchens. And some of these ingredients are exotic so you won't easily be able to locate them at Walmart or the like. One such ingredient is tamarind paste, that is difficult to locate for many people.
Tamarind paste comes from the tamarind fruit and has a strong, tangy flavor. It often lends a delicious flavor to Asian and Indian cooking, and it is in preparing these recipes that people find it difficult to locate it. This paste is usually available at Asian food stores. Now if you've tried and still can't find it, a simple substitute can be prepared. While the flavor may not be exactly the same, the substitute can replicate it to a great extent. So here's a look into what you can use or prepare instead of tamarind paste.
The idea behind preparing any substitute is that it should contain the flavors that the original ingredient contains. As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to get the exact flavor, but you can get close to it if you try using a variety of condiments. So here goes:
- Use a dash of Worcestershire sauce in your preparation. Tamarind is one of the ingredients of this sauce so it can lend to the flavor you are trying to create.
- Combine together one tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon chopped prunes, one tablespoon chopped dates, and one tablespoon chopped dried apricots in a bowl of boiling water and cover it. Allow them to soak for a while till the fruits soften, and then blend them together until smooth. Strain this blend and use as you would use tamarind paste.
- Try mixing some white sugar with vinegar till you achieve the desired taste.
- A unique idea is to blend together raisins soaked in water for about 15 - 20 minutes with some lemon juice to form a thick paste. This is supposed to be one of the best substitutes for tamarind paste.
- Finally, you may also combine together brown sugar and lime juice till you achieve the desired flavor to substitute tamarind in your recipe.
How to Prepare Tamarind Paste
Now if you still want the authentic flavors of tamarind, you can prepare this paste yourself at home. However, this does require looking for a block of tamarind pulp from which you can prepare the paste. These blocks usually come with seeds, but if you happen to find one without seeds it is definitely a better choice as it entails lesser work. If you have found this basic ingredient, here's how to go about it.
- Combine together one-fourth cup of warm water with one tablespoon of the seedless tamarind pulp. If you happen to have the block with seeds, take one and a half tablespoons of the pulp to the same amount of water.
- Allow the pulp to soak in the water until it softens.
- You will have to use your hands to rub the pulp and prepare the paste. If it has seeds, ensure that you rub all the pulp off the seeds.
- Once thoroughly blended, strain the blend to get pure tamarind paste.
- You may now use it as required in the recipe you are preparing.
Freshly prepared tamarind paste can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator. It is the best way to get the original flavors that you are looking for in a dish. However, if you can't find it or make it, you may try the aforementioned substitutes as variations in each recipe, and experiment to see which one tickles your taste buds the most. Hopefully you will be able to recreate the closest flavor to the original recipe. Good luck!