Tamarind is a tropical pod with a sticky brown flesh that is both tangy and sweet. Dissolved in varying concentrations, it can be used to make a thin, tart water or a thick, pulpy puree. Both are used as an ingredient in Latin American and Asian cuisines. Tamarind comes in several forms. Whole pods can sometimes be found with fresh produce. When the shells, seeds, and fibers are removed, they can be eaten like candy. I always keep a block of lump tamarind on hand. Sticky cakes of tamarind pulp often contain some seeds and fibers that can easily be removed as the cake softens. Thai lump tamarind has a particularly appealing tangy taste. You can also buy prepared tamarind purees and syrups, but they tend to be quite dull or so concentrated they seem like molasses.

Tamarind Water

This is an excellent tangy, fruity, alcohol-free alternative to wine.

  • Pour 3/4 cup boiling water over 1 heaping tablespoon (1 oz/28 g) lump tamarind. Leave to soften for a minute, then stir and mash the tamarind. Let steep for 3 to 4 minutes longer, then stir again or, if the water is cool enough, use your fingers to loosen the pulp from the seeds and fibers. Strain the liquid, pressing as much pulp as possible through the sieve. Discard the seeds and fibers.

Tamarind Pulp

Use as a tangy ingredient in curries and peanut sauce.

  • Break up 3 tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) lump tamarind and combine it with 1 cup water in a saucepan. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until the tamarind is soft and and the mixture has thickened. Press the pulp through a sieve and discard the fibers and seeds.

Excerpted from Mastering Sauces: The Home Cook’s Guide to New Techniques for Fresh Flavors by Susan Volland. Copyright © 2015 by Susan Volland. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.