Tamarind trees grow all around the island of Ko Chang Ranong . They can grow pretty big and the ripe tamarind pods scatter around so that when we are walking under these trees they are crunching underfoot. The pods are quite big and plump, about the size of baby broad beans. The pod itself is brown and the interior is a kind of rusty terracotta with seeds the size of pumpkin seeds encased in a soft pulp. This looks quite different from what we buy at home which is either in solid dark brown blocks or as a concentrate.
As you might expect they feature on the menu in a few different guises. My current favourite is Crispy Fish with Tamarind sauce. This is usually red snapper or barracuda, deep fried, and served with a delicious sweet sour tamarind sauce on top.garnished with crispy shallots and lime leaves. or fried garlic slices. The fish are slashed a few times, through to the bone, on each side and slipped into a wok with a couple of inches of hot oil. The sauce is made with tamarind pulp, palm sugar and fish sauce with the addition of chilli, garlic and shallots.
It’s definitely a recipe that I will add to my repertoire, The fish could be pan fried, grilled or steamed and served with the tamarind sauce if you don’t want to deep fry whole fish.
Here’s an interpretation of the tamarind sauce recipe from last night. I quizzed the chef for the ingredients and I’ve written it using tamarind concentrate as our cooking expert in Penang reckoned that if fresh tamarind paste wasn’t available the concentrate had the edge. I’m not entirely sure that the tamarind concentrate that we get is the way to go but I have to wait until I get home to try it out.
Meanwhile here’s my notes
For the sauce;
2-3 chillies – less if you don’t like spicy
2-3 cloves garlic
a little oil
1 tbs tamarind concentrate
2 and a half tbs palm sugar or light muscovado sugar
3tbs fish sauce
50 mls hot water
Peel the garlic and shallots and finely chop together with the chillies.
Mix the tamarind with the water and fish sauce and stir in the sugar.
Fry the garlic/chilli/shallot paste for one minute in a little oil then add the other ingredients, bring to the boil then reduce until the consistency of honey.
For the garnish either slice peeled garlic thinly and shallow fry until lightly browned – not as easy as it sounds as it’ll burn in a jiffy so keep a sharp eye on it or fry thinly sliced shallots until crispy or fry lime leaves until crispy.
Pour cover the fish and serve with the garnish sprinkled over the top