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Test Kitchen tips: Cleaning tamarind pulp

Salmonskewerswallyskalij

Today's really fun Master Class article on ketchup (hold the tomatoes!) by Sang Yoon includes a great recipe for fig and tamarind ketchup.

I love the tart, bright flavors of tamarind. Found in cuisines throughout the world, it's a perfect ingredient when you want to add a fresh "zing" to a dish, giving it a nice jolt of flavor. The photo above is from a recipe for salmon skewers with tamarind sauce, adapted from a recipe by Marcus Samuelsson and a favorite go-to dish when I'm grilling on a summer evening.

The flavor is magical, but tamarind can come across as a difficult ingredient if you've never used it. While seedless pulp is available at many markets, it's commonly found packaged in blocks -- the pulp (or paste) is often packaged with bits of seed and solids which need to be strained before the pulp can be used.

But the method is simple:

I take a block of tamarind (14 ounces), place it in a large bowl and soak it in about 2 cups of really hot water. The hot water helps to loosen the block. Set it aside for about 15 to 20 minutes until the block is softened and the water is cool enough to handle. Work the block with your fingers, breaking up the block and massaging the pulp to dislodge the solids. Run the pulp through a strainer, discard the solids, then cover and refrigerate the pulp until needed. This makes a generous cup of seedless pulp (amounts can vary by brand and amount of solids packed with the block), which should keep for a good week in the refrigerator.

You can increase or decrease the amount of water for soaking depending on how strong you want the finished product.

Depending on the recipe, you might also want to make tamarind liquid. We ran a recipe, along with a great story on the many uses for tamarind, a few years ago. The recipe for the liquid follows this post.

Enjoy!

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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-- Noelle Carter
Twitter/noellecarter

Photo: Salmon skewers with tamarind sauce. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Tamarind liquid

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: Makes about 3 cups

Note: Tamarind paste is a packaged block of pulp (typically 14 ounces, various brands). It's available at 99 Ranch Market stores, Indian and other Southeast Asian markets, Middle Eastern markets and Filipino markets.

1 block tamarind paste

1. Gently simmer the tamarind pulp in 4 cups water for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Press the softened pulp through a sieve, breaking up the pulp and, if necessary, pouring some already-strained liquid through a second or third time to loosen the pulp enough to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids. You should have about 3 cups. Refrigerate tamarind liquid for up to a week or measure it into ice-cube trays and freeze for convenient future use.

 
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