Saturday, September 3, 2011
Tamarind Candy Sweet
Rising Produce, $0.69
"Whenever I hear the word chua, Vietnamese for "sour," I think of tamarind, the sticky brown fruit that grew in abundance on shading trees in my old schoolyard back in Saigon, and its intense sour-sweet memories inevitably cause my molars to vibrate and my mouth to water. I hear "sour" in English and I don't feel a thing."
East Eats West
Even without the amplification of childhood memories, the mention of tamarind provokes in me an identical Pavlovian response. Indigenous to Africa, the tamarind tree has spread to just about every hospitably tropical climate, and the flavorful pulp cushioning the seeds inside its long, leathery pods makes star turns in a number of ethnic cuisines. Although its bipolar flavor is not dissimilar to dried apricot, tamarind pulp has a funky, fetid edge that adds exotic depth to everything from to pad thai to paletas to Worcestershire sauce.
A simple showcase for tamarind's charms, these Thai sweets are made from pulp, sugar, rice flour, and a bare pinch of salt. They're doughy-soft and crystal-crunchy--except when concealing a scrap of shell, which will cut you like a shank if you're not careful. Exotic and dangerous.