Tamarind gets its name from the Arabic word tamar-hindi, meaning “Indian date.” The fruit comes from a tree native to Africa, but now found in many tropical regions. It is used particularly in Mexican, Indian, and Thai foods and as a souring agent in South American and Southeast Asian cuisines.
I’ve been looking for new tastes and textures to satisfy my sweet tooth, since I can no longer have any traditional candy due to food allergies. Finding textures that are chewy can be especially tough, and I thought the sour taste of a gummy candy was out of the question.
Then I learned about tamarind candies. They have a delightful chewy texture, and a sweet and sour taste. They can be modified for your individual preferences, simply by adding a larger ration of sugar to fruit, and by using more or less chili powder.
Tamarind can be purchased as a concentrate paste in jars, a compressed block or dried pods. I have given the instructions for each version. Simply start at the point in the instructions where it indicates the form of tamarind you have available.
1 cup tamarind concentrate paste — use 8 ounce container of concentrate, or 4 ounces from a compressed block, or 4.5 ounces dried pods
1 1/2 cups water (1/2 cup water if using bought tamarind concentrate)
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating candy
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne, plus additional for coating if desired
If you start with dried tamarind pods, you will need to follow these steps to extract the edible tamarind fruit inside:
- Crack open the shells and scoop or scrape out the tamarind pulp, pulling off the strings.
If you’re starting with the compressed block of tamarind paste, start here to soften fruit and remove membranes:
- Place the tamarind pulp in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then turn off burner and let soak for 20 minutes. Loosen the membranes by mashing with a spoon or potato masher.
- Pour the liquid through a mesh strainer or colander, into a bowl, straining out seeds and membranes. Mash or scrape the membranes against the strainer to extract as much of the juice and pulp as you can. Return liquid to saucepan.
If you are using a container of concentrate paste, start here:
- If using bought tamarind concentrate, add 1/2 cup water to paste in saucepan.
- Stir in cayenne (or chili powder), salt, and 1 cup sugar. Test the mixture to determine if you want more spice or sweetness, adding more cayenne or sugar accordingly. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium, stirring frequently until liquid thickens.
- Remove from heat and scrape into pan or bowl and let set for 15 minutes.
- Form into small balls 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. Roll balls in extra sugar, and or sugar with chili powder mixed in, and store at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Makes approximately 50 candies.
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