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Test Kitchen video tip: Cleaning tamarind pulp

July 13, 2012 |  4:36 pm

I love the tart, bright flavors of tamarind. It's a perfect ingredient when you want to add a fresh "zing" to a dish. 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 packed with bits of seed and solids, which need to be strained before the pulp can be used.

But the method is simple:

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.

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

Video credit: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times

Salmon skewers with tamarind pulp

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from "The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa" by Marcus Samuelsson. See the accompanying recipe for tamarind liquid. Or you can use canned "fresh tamarind concentrate" (use the same amount as of tamarind liquid). The C.T.F. brand is available at K.H. Supermarket in Long Beach, Ai Hoa market in downtown Los Angeles ( Chinatown) and Saigon Market in Lawndale.

1/2 cup peanut oil

2 pounds salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch cubes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons tamarind liquid

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Pour the peanut oil into a medium bowl. Add the salmon and turn to coat. Set fish aside for 30 minutes.

2. Soak 16 bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Prepare a medium-hot grill fire.

3. While the salmon is marinating in the peanut oil, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, vinegar, red wine, cornstarch, tamarind and sugar. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool slightly.

4. Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth; this makes 2 cups. Place 1 cup in a small serving bowl and set aside. Reserve the remaining sauce for basting the salmon.

5. Sprinkle the salmon with the salt and thread it onto skewers. Arrange the skewers on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or just until cooked through, brushing frequently with the tamarind sauce.

6. Serve with the bowl of reserved sauce.

Each serving: 334 calories; 23 grams protein; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 23 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 67 mg. cholesterol; 214 mg. sodium.

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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