Tamarind is the ticket to taste

Let’s get exotic here, and talk about tamarind. A little-known, ugly fruit that’s native to Asia, its pulp tastes like a combination of dates and lemon, a sweet/sour combination that really wakes up a palate. It’s one of the key ingredients that gives Worcestershire sauce that unique bite.

Although I love the taste of tamarind, it has two major downsides. It’s hard to find around here, and when it does show up on the shelf, it usually is in square bricks of pulp that require a long soak in boiling water, then some vigorous scraping over a strainer to extract the juice. That’s not exactly the kind of time I want to spend when I’m slapping together a dish. So, instead, I usually substitute a mixture of an equal amount of molasses, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce.

However, I probably got a little too excited when I recently snagged a bottle of tamarind syrup off the shelf at Yafa Cafe and Market in Charlotte.

True, tamarind syrup is usually mixed with club soda or sparkling water to make a really tasty drink, but I’m using this bottle for adding a twist to glazes, sauces and desserts. Its sweet tartness works like cranberries to offset roasted chicken or meat, and mixed with a spoonful of mustard it will bring out the best in pan-fried pork chops. I’m going to experiment with brushing it on strips of bacon and then oven-frying them, too.

Several years ago, we begged to know the ingredients of a tamarind dipping sauce from the bartender at one of our favorite restaurants. The place served the sauce with its avocado egg rolls and the combination was mind-blowing. He scribbled down the ingredients for us, but, given the above mentioned difficulties of tamarind, we squirreled the recipe away. Now, armed with a bottle of promise, we have resurrected the dish, and will enjoy it in honor of the restaurant, which, unfortunately, is long gone. We bake the egg rolls instead of deep frying them to make things a little healthier and less messy.

Baked Avocado Egg Rolls with Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Egg Rolls

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

2 Tbsp. green onion, diced

2 Tbsp. cilantro, diced

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cumin

8 egg roll wrappers

2-3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

Tamarind dipping sauce

1/4 cup tamarind syrup

1/2 cup cilantro

1/4 cup cashews, lightly toasted

1 green onion, chopped coarsely

juice of one lime

For egg rolls:

Preheat oven to 425 and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a bowl, gently stir together the avocado, lime juice, corn, onion, cilantro salt and cumin.  Have a small bowl of water at hand to moisten the edges of the egg rolls wrappers. Place a wrapper on a sheet of waxed paper, spoon a line of filling horizontally down the middle, Fold the bottom up over the ingredients. Use your fingers to dampen the edges of the folded wrapper. Fold in the two sides, dampen the tops and fold the top of the wrapper over them to make a closed packet. Repeat with other wrappers, place, folded sides down, on the baking sheet. With a pastry brush, coat them thinly with the grapeseed oil and bake for 8 minutes. Flip the egg rolls over, brush with oil and and bake an additional 8 minutes.

While egg rolls are baking make the dipping sauce by placing all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. If the sauce is too thick for your tastes, add a little more tamarind syrup or sherry.



2 thoughts on “Tamarind is the ticket to taste

  1. Before I got clued in to all the ethnic markets in close proximity to me (but none within the borders of homogeneous Park Ridge), my go-to site for ordering Thai ingredients was ImportFood.com. Highly recommended; you can also scout out the site for recipes, and sign up for a very interesting weekly email with specials and yet more recipes!

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