There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of tamarind and if you have, you’re probably still wondering what it is.
Although it looks like a nut or bean, and could even pass as a spice, it’s actually a tropical fruit and one of the most prized foods in Southeast Asia. It’s also used widely in Mexico, the Caribbean and Middle East.
This pod-like fruit is found on the tamarind tree, which is native to Africa but now grows in Pakistan, India and other tropical regions too.
The bean-like pods are surrounded by a fibrous pulp and filled with seeds. The seeds and leaves are edible, as is the pulp, which acquires its sweet-sour notes when the fruit ripens and the juicy pulp turns into a paste.
Thai cuisine puts the edible pulp to good use, by stirring it into dishes that benefit from its distinct flavour. Tamarind pulp manages to be sweet and tangy at the same time, but not in an overpowering way.
It has a rich history of being used in cooking (dating back thousands of years) and it’s now a staple in Asia and South America.
You can see what all the fuss is about by trying Wok on Inn’s famous penang satay noodles, or any of our other dishes that feature the fruit.
A powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and amino acids:
Part of the appeal of tamarind (besides its unique flavour profile) is that it’s brimming with nutrients that work wonders for your body.
In fact, you can get 34 per cent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B1 (thiamin) in one serving of the fruit.
It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, B2 and B3 – as well as trace amounts of copper, selenium, folate and vitamins C, K and B6. Talk about hitting all the right notes!
Health benefits of tamarind:
Tamarind is very high in dietary fibre, which means it’s good at revving up sluggish digestive systems. It also contains a bilious substance which helps us digest food faster.
If you suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol, consuming tamarind can help to remove “bad” cholesterol from your veins and arteries. It also contains an impressive amount of vitamin C, which reduces the impact of free radicals on your heart.
Our bodies demand large amounts of iron to effectively pump oxygen to our muscles and organs. A single serving of tamarind provides more than 10 percent of your daily iron requirement, so it’s a good food to consume if you’re at risk of developing anaemia or any other condition associated with iron deficiency.
Finally, the anti-inflammatory properties of tamarind can boost your immunity and promote healing from microbial and fungal infections.
Curious to sample tamarind pulp in our nourishing dishes?