From Pod to Paste
Tamarind Fruit – Makham – มะขาม
When I visited my village last year, I took my usual leisurely walk around Dern Len. As I walked past my relative’s home, I saw the large tamarind tree that I played underneath with friends when we were young and used as shelter from the hot sun. The four-stories-high tamarind tree still stands, timeless in their yard. I was lucky to see my relatives as well—we haven’t seen each other for many years. I greeted them and we sat down to catch up, and observed once again the yearly family ritual of preparing tamarind chunks under the tree. With everyone’s permission and kindness, I am able to share stories and photos with you today. This is a real snapshot of the Thai-food-ways that are at the heart of my Thai village where Thai culinary tradition is still practiced sustainably.
Tamarind pods dry and mature on the tree, then are removed or shaken to fall on the ground. After collecting many baskets of the dried pods, we gather around the table and with many hands we get enough tamarind chunks to last until the next harvest a year away. Often the surplus is bagged and sold, or given to close family members.
Step-by-Step: How to Prepare Tamarind Pod
Tamarind pods dry and mature on the tree until the owner of the tree can find an expert tree climber. Typically the climber will stand on the branches or hold them and shake them until the pods fall onto the ground which is lined with nets or fabric.
After the tamarind pods are collected, people get together to remove the pods, veins, and seeds and pack the tamarind chunks into a package, ready to use in the kitchen. My cousin will show you step-by-step how to open a tamarind pod.
First she holds it with two hands, then uses both thumbs to press the pod until it cracks.
Second, she removes the outer shell of the pod.
Third, she remove the veins that cover the tamarind flesh.
Fourth, holding the tamarind with one hand, use the other hand poke a paring knife with a sharp point into the bean section.
Finally, use the knife to widen the hole and squeeze out the seed. Repeat until all the seeds are removed.
Seedless tamarind chunks sun-dry on bamboo trays for a few days. This gives them a longer shelf life.
Then it is packed into a half-kilogram bag.
The moisture content in tamarind paste is different from tree to tree, and from season to season. The tamarind above is dryer than most you will find in the grocery store.
Now that you understand step-by-step how tamarind chunks are removed from the pods, read my previous post on how to make ready-to-use tamarind concentrate. It explains and illustrates how to intuitively use tamarind as a sour agent in various dishes.
How to Make Ready-to Use Tamarind Concentrate (praneesthaikitchen.com)
Pranee’s Tamarind Syrup, Tamarind-Honey Tea, Tamarind Soda Recipes (praneesthaikitchen.com)