Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Autumn Cobb Salad with Smoky Butternut Squash Dressing

Autumn Cobb Salad with Smoky Butternut Squash Dressing
by Victoria Challancin

Beautiful food inspires the poet in us all, but when my own attempts at adequate description fail me, I simply turn to the great poets who say it better.   In this case, I will call on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and simply use her voice to say, "Cobb Salad, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways."

Let's see...there was the memorable New Orleans' style Muffaletta Cobb Salad with a Horseradish Vinaigrette.  Mmmm.  And then there was the stunning retro Mexican Shrimp Cobb Salad with Creamy Cilantro-Tomatillo Dressing.  Ahhhh.  Fun.  And I could never overlook the Shrimp and Gruyère Cobb Salad with Pickled Quails Eggs and Low-Fat Green Goddess Dressing.  Sigh...Yes, Cobb Salad, I truly do love you.  And your interpretations are endless.  Antipasto Cobb Salad?  Why not?  Sushi Cobb Salad?  Absolutely!  Indian-Inspired Cobb Salad with chicken, curried potatoes, raita, kachumber, and a chutney dressing?  Divine.  Vietnamese Summer Roll Cobb Salad?  Yes, yes, yes...just open up those summer rolls and serve with a ginger-soy dressing.  Satay Cobb Salad?  Gado-Gado as a Cobb Salad?  Greek Cobb Salad? California or Southwestern Style?  You bet.  Let your imagination go wild.  It is all in the presentation after all.  

A Little History of Cobb Salad
From an earlier post:  In 1937 an overnight salad sensation was born at Hollywood's The Brown Derby restaurant, when the hungry owner, Bob Cobb, three together an assortment of salad ingredients to satisfy his late-night hunger.  According to Arthur, Schwartz, NYC's "Food Maven," more than 4 million Cobb salads have been sold at the Brown Derby restaurants since that time.  It is easy to understand why:  the salad is beautiful, full of healthy ingredients, and above all, the recipe is flexible.  While the original classic recipe calls for chicken, bacon, and blue cheese, this salad begs for reinterpretation.  Because it is so perfect for San Miguel's al fresco dining style, I have prepared it over the years in a variety of styles ranging from Italian to Thai to Mexican, and of course, French.

I always feel a bit sad when I think of my many Down Under friends who are now ending their spring, just as we prepare for winter.  Maybe I can convince them to save this tasty recipe for autumn, just as I am gathering up their lighter food offerings for when our own weather warms up!

Cook's Notes:  The original recipe used pumpkin instead of butternut squash, but because I am so giddy at suddenly having access to the latter, I chose it.  I used mizuna as a spritely base for this and chose multi-colored tiny tomatoes, including some lovely chocolate-hued ones.  Although I used feta, blue cheese would have been lovely as well.  This certainly should have had some toasted pumpkin seeds atop it as well--I just didn't have time to make them in class!

Recipe:  Autumn Cobb Salad with Smoky Butternut Squash Dressing
(Original recipe from

3 cups pumpkin (or other winter squash--I used butternut), peeled, and cut into large dice
Seeds from the squash (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 head iceberg lettuce  (or other lettuce such as endive, arugula, baby kale--or mizuna, which is used here)
2 cups cooked chicken breast cut into chunks or shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 avocado, cut into large dice
4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into quarters or slices
4 slices crispy cooked bacon
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Smoky Pumpkin Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin chunks
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 415 degrees F.  Spread the pumpkin or squash pieces on a sheet pan and toss them with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast for about 20 minutes or until golden and tender.  Remove and set aside to cool.

On a separate sheet pan, toss the seeds from the pumpkin or squash with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and a little kosher salt.  Roast for about 7 minutes or until golden.  Remove and set aside to cool.

To make the Dressing:
In the jar of a blender, combine 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin or squash, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika and salt.  Puree on high until well combined and smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Set aside.

To assemble:  
Arrange the ingredients in rows over a base of lettuce or chosen green leaves.  Sprinkle the top with parsley and pumpking seeds, if using.  Serve with the Smoky Dressing on top and/or on the side.

Parting Shot:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Wontons with Maple Cream Dipping Sauce

 Pumpkin Pie Wontons with Maple Cream Dipping Sauce

Just in Time for Thanksgiving:  Pumpkin Pie Wontons with Maple Cream Dipping Sauce
by Victoria Challancin

With Thanksgiving looming for Americans, even for expats like me, I wanted to offer a simple seasonal dessert that would be a perfect ending to a heavy meal of turkey and all the trimmings. Although I tend to stick to traditional family recipes for this beloved holiday, I can easily see substituting this easy-to-prepare dessert for my aunt's traditional pumpkin pie.  Good enough to eat a dozen, yet small enough to be satisfied with just one, this dessert is guaranteed to gratify all.

The filling comes together quickly, and the wontons fry in minutes.  Perhaps the maple cream dipping sauce is gilding the lily, but it is tasty enough to be included and offers that last bit of decadence to polish off a day of general gustatory excess.

Pumpking Pie Wontons with Maple Cream Dipping Sauce

Cook's Notes:  If using canned pumpkin, there is more enough to easily double this recipe.  And why not?  If opening a packet of 50 wonton wrappers, it is easy enough to make more than the twenty listed in the recipe amounts.  And trust me, these disappear almost as quickly as you can fry them, roll them in sugar, and put them on a plate!  You can use plain water to seal them, in lieu of an egg wash.  Also, these can be baked--but they are definitely better fried!

Recipe:  Pumpkin Pie Wontons with Maple Cream Dipping Sauce
(Recipe from
Makes 20 wontons, but can easily be doubled

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see the recipe below)
2 tablespoons Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
20 wonton wrappers
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)--or just use plain water
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar or cinnamon/granulated sugar for dusting

Optional Maple Dip:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature (or use regular cream cheese)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and cream cheese until combined.

Lay wonton wrappers on a clean surface.  Brush egg wash (or even plain water) along edges of each wrapper and place 1 teaspoon filling in the center.  Fold each wrapper into a triangle and pinch edges to seal.

In a large, deep saucepan over medium heat, bring about 1 1/2 inches oil to about 320 degrees F.  Drop 3-4 wontons (or more if you can add them without crowding the pan) into the hot oil and cook 2 to 3 minutes each side or until golden brown.  Alternately, you can spray the wontons with oil, dust with cinnamon sugar, and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden.

Remove wontons with slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool slightly. Repeat with remaining wontons.  Dust wontons with powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

To make the dipping sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, cream cheese, maple syrup and ground cinnamon.  Serve dip alongside warm wontons.

How to make Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix:
Makes 2 1/3 tablespoons
(Adapted from The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices by Tony Hill)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk or stir to combine.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Parting Shot:  

©Victoria Challancin

Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México

Please ask permission before using photos or text.  Thank you1

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day of the Dead 2014: Symbolism and Colors

On an altar in the main square of San Miguel de Allende, November 2, 2014

Day of the Dead:  Symbolism and Colors

by Victoria Challancin

In Mexico, my adopted home, we dance with death on a near-daily basis, but never as we do on el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when real communication with the dead is believed possible.  

Together, dear Readers, we have talked about The Poetry of Death, sampled the alfeñiques or sugar skulls/figures, strolled through the Day of the Dead Markets, we have built altars, visited altars, and seen even more altars, enjoyed the food...together we have done all this, and yet I know, that if you are a non-Mexican reader, you no doubt find it all strange, if not disturbingly macabre.

In a past post, I summed it up as I best know how:  ...with all the death imagery, that constant reminder of our mortality, humor permeates all.  In Mexico, it is not that loss isn't felt, that grief isn't present, or even that sadness isn't is more that a sensible perspective exists, allowing us to feel the sorrow, remember those who have most touched our lives, and always know that death is an inevitable part of life.  Death.  The one inevitable experience that no once can escape.  No one.

Reams have been written about Mexico's celebration of the Day of the Dead and its obsession with Death.  Reams.  Volumes.  Often I read that it is an example of how Mexicans laugh at death.  I don't believe that Mexicans laugh at death at all, rather they "celebrate" death as a means of staying connected and honoring those that they love, those who have passed on--albeit in a joyful and colorful way.  No dreary mourning here.  Instead, we have a vivid connection to the Cycle of Life.

The indigenous peoples of Mexico, such as the Nahua, Purepecha, Totonac, and Otomí believed that the souls of the dead return yearly to visit with their relatives.  And they come laughing, drinking, dancing, singing and generally being merry, just as when they were alive.  There is surely a message for us all here--seize the moment and live!

“The Mexican... is familiar with death. (He) jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. It is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.”     Octavio Paz, Mexican Poet and Writer

(Note:  November 1st is known as All Saints Day and the 2nd is All Souls Day--the days when the dead return to us each year).   

Instead of wearing masks and costumes meant to scare away the evil spirits, Mexicans offer beauty in the form of floral arrangements, favorite sweets and food, and photos to both remember and welcome the loved ones who have passed on.

The Symbolism and Meaning of the Colors
The most common colors seen on the altars for Day of the Dead are purple, yellow, orange, white, red, and pink.  Each one carries its own meaning.

Purple:  suffering, pain, loss, and grief

Yellow/Orange:  the brilliance of the sun and a new day

White:  purity, promise, and hope

Red:  the blood of life which sustains not only the body but the soul and a symbol of sacrifice

Pink:  celebration and joy

A Catrina

Why Skeletons?
They dance, they prance, they cavort, they sing, they eat, and laugh.  They represent those who are no longer with us in the flesh, but are with us in spirit.  They remind us that they are still here, still a part of us, and they remind us literally of what is inside every one of us--our skeleton, representing our inner selves, our souls.  They also remind us of the good things in life:  good wine, family, eating, singing, dancing, and playing.  And they do it so well.

A friend and her partner dressed as a Catrina and a Catrín
Calaveras, or Skulls
In addition to the entire skeleton, the heads, or skulls alone are a beloved emblem for the Day of the Dead.  Often depicted in humorous settings, they can be caricatures of famous people such as actors or politicians, musicians, dancers, policemen, and revolutionaries.  The most iconic of these symbols come from the works of artist José Guadalupe Posada whose 19th century engravings form the basis of the beloved Catrina figure  (see above).  Note as well that the pre-Columbian Mexicans viewed the skull as a symbol of life, rather than death.

The Marigolds
Cempazuchitl, the Náhuatl or Aztec word for marigold, act as symbols for death in ancient Mesoamerican mythology.  Often they are seen broken open, so that their petals can be used to lead the dead home where they are honored and prayed for by their loved ones.  They are also woven into arches and left whole in vases or growing in pots--the "flower of the dead."  These flowers are also called zempasuchil. cempasuchil, or zempasuchitl.

Las Ofrendas, or Offerings
Favorite foods of the beloved are always offered on the altars.  You will see sugar cane, oranges, apples, pan de muerto, peanuts, seeds, beanstequila, beer, tamales, refried beans, charro beans, nixtamal, tacos, enchiladas, and more.  Photos always are lovingly placed alongside the food offerings.  Toys, pipes, hats, and other personal belongings also find their way to the altars.

Papel Chino or Papel Picado
The beautifully and often intricately cut tissue paper designs can been seen decorating not only altars, but also homes, streets, neighborhoods, and shops.  They often show skeletons cavorting in their very human ways, displaying the same antics as the living.  This delicate tissue also represents the wind and the fragility of life.

Pan de Muerto
One of the staple foods on any altar is pan de muerto, or "bread of the dead," which symbolizes the souls of the departed.  This slightly sweet egg bread can be found in a variety of shapes from simple round with crosses or bones atop them to elaborate skulls and skeletons.  

Candles and Incense
The candles, or fire,  are meant to guide the spirits to their final resting place as well as help them return to visit the living.  Incense also helps to carry the soul along, with soft scents, on its journey.

Alfeñiques, or Sugar Figures
Although I have written extensively about alfeniques before, and shown lovingly made examples from the local Day of the Dead Market, no post about Day of the Dead can miss mentioning these whimsical sugar figures, made with powdered sugar, egg whites, and a vegetable adhesive made of lemon.  Check out the link above for many examples of the types of sugar figures Mexicans put on their home altars.

Day of the Dead
San Miguel de Allende, México

Parting Shot:  
A Degas-esque ballerina offering, made by a precious Mexican friend and her father

Please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thank you!

Victoria Challancin
Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tamarind--Facts, Fun, and Recipes

Tamarind--Facts, Fun, and Recipes 
by Victoria Challancin

It's all in the name.  For me, it's always in the name.  Tamarind.  Tamar Hindi.  Indian Date.  Tamarindus indica.  And although I have eaten tamarind in various dishes all over Southeast Asia, for me it will ever be dual-linked to the Arab world, where I first really discovered it, and to Mexico, where it flourishes in the cuisine.

Even though I was vaguely aware that tamarind was an ingredient in several popular sauces I used and loved, such as Pick-a-Peppa and Worcestershire (and later HP Sauce), I never really got to know it as an ingredient until I first lived in the Middle East in the mid-seventies. In Abu Dhabi, where I moved in 1975, I encountered tamarind first as a cold drink, delicately flavored with rosewater, offered during Ramadan as a traditional drink.  Sour and haunting, the elusive flavor of tamarind was enhanced for me by what was then to me a very exotic ingredient, rosewater.  Since that time, both ingredients have found their way over and over in my cooking.

Here is a lovely version of that drink by Sawsan, the exceptional blogger of Chef in Disguise:

Sweet Tamarind Drink
200g package of tamarind
1 liter water
Sugar to taste
Rosewater (optional--but not really, at least to me)

Break apart the tamarind into small segments.  Place it in a pot with the water and 2/3 cup of sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Strain the mix through a fabric with fine weave or some coffee filters.

Taste and adjust the sugar to your liking.  Cool in the refrigerator.  Add a small amount of rosewater just before serving.

This next recipe is one I have used and taught, however I did find one that looks even better, if more complicated on Food and Wine's site:
My version is also nice with a bit of fresh ginger and/or some cinnamon added.  But that could be gilding the lily!
Margarita making, in my experience, involved tasting and adding, adjusting frequently so you can just the right balance of sweet-sour-tequila.  Feel free to tinker with this.  I do.

Tamarind Margarita
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

Per serving:

Chile-Lime powder to rim the glass  (I use Tajin brand)
2 lime wedges (one to moisten the rim  of the glass, one for garnish)
2 tablespoons (I like a strong tamarind flavor--use less if you don't)
1 1/2 ounces good-quality tequila
1/2 ounce orange liquor
1/2 ounce simple syrup (use more if you like it sweeter)

Rim the glass with a lime wedge, cutting a slit in the lime to facilitate the process.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice/  Add all of the ingredients and shake well.  Strain into a prepared glass and serve.  If you prefer a slushy marg, simple place all of the ingredients in a blender and give it a whirl.

To Prepare Fresh Tamarind
Crack open the tamarind fruit/pod, removing all bits of the brittle covering/  Peel away the stringy fibers.  Place the peeled pods, about 2 1/2 cups, in a pot with water to  barely cover the fruit.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Stir to dissolve the pulp.  Strain liquid into a bowl by pressing the solid contents through a fine sieve.  Use a spoon to scrape all the pulp from the bottom of the sieve--you don't want to miss a drop!  Discard the leftover seeds and fibers.  Alternatively, the pulp can be soaked in just warm water for about 10 minutes before removing the pulp, though this method is less efficient.

This drawing has been in my files for so long that I no longer where I originally found it.

Later in Mexico, I found tamarind in a special mole from Oaxaca,  in various aguas frescas (see my article on Mexican fruit drinks here), in a chicken dish cooked with apricots for a sweet and sour kick, as a glaze for grilled shrimp, as a flavor for a hot corn-based atole drinkand in more recent years it has flourished as a popular margarita flavoring. (see the recipe below)  But of course, my most vivid tamarindo moments always involved my child, born and raised in Mexico, who loved (and still does) the popular sweet/sour tamarind candy rolled in chile powder which always tumbled out of the broken piñatas of his younger years.  In fact, even when he was 20, I asked what I could bring from Mexico when I visited him in Los Angeles, where he was living:  "Pulparindo!" he happily cried.  Pulparindo, indeed--his favorite candy from his youth.  Of course he also asked for Tajin, a chile-lime powder popular for sprinkling on fruits and even sandwiches made with milanesas of chicken or pork.  So I dutifully found the requested items, but in tiny form, so that I could hide them in the pockets of his clothes, in his shoes, under his pillow, basically anywhere I thought it would a fun find for him once I left.

A very small sampling of typical tamarind-chile Mexican sweets called dulces de tamarindo, my favorite being the one served in the ceramic shoe!  Note that the little pot of tamarind sweet comes with its own spoon/shovel.

A bag of whole tamarind pods from a local grocery store; in the market it is found loose and in bulk

                                                                                         Mexican Tamarind Martinis with Sour Plums                                                                             Photograph by Zachary Popovsky

While working with the wonderful Hip Entertainment Group production company in Los Angeles on a FoodNetwork show, I was asked to develop a tamarind martini recipe.  Of course I left it to my 20-year-old son, at the time, knowing he would do a great job, a far better job than I, in fact.  Here is what Zack created, complete with the tiny sour, salted plums readily found in Mexico.  In the end, the main producer decided to feature a tamarind margarita instead...and more's the pity.

Ingredient Note:  Saladitos are a common sweet in Mexico, made from dried, salted plums, often with the addition of sugar and anise.  Similar to chamoy, a sweet/sour/ chile sweet made from dried apricots and frequently paired with other fruits, saladitos are often sucked on their own or placed at the bottom of a glass filled with a soft drink such as Sprite.

Mexican Tamarind Martinis with Salted Plums
(Recipe by Zachary Popovsky)
Makes 6 servings

12 oz shelled fresh tamarind pods, rinsed with cold water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Mexican chile-lime powder (available in Mexican or Latin markets)
1 lime wedge
6 salted plums (available in Mexican or Latin markets)
2 to 2 1/2 cups vodka

Combine the tamarind and 4 cups water in a medium-size heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, until the tamarind is very soft, about 10 minutes.

Carefully pour the tamarind water into a container and set aside.

Using a potato or bean masher, mash the tamarind with seeds in the saucepan.  Return the reserved tamarind water to the saucepan and mix it into the mashed pulp.  Strain the mixture into a pitcher, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the solids.

Stir in 3 cups fresh water to form a fairly concentrated mixture.  Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. This concentrated mixture can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated.

To prepare the martini glasses:  Pour several tablespoons of the chile-lime powder onto a flat saucer.  Make a gash in the lime wedge, using it to rim the martini glasses with lime juice.  Dip the rims of the glasses in the powder, tapping lightly to shake off any excess.

For each martini serving, combine 3/4 cup tamarind concentrate and 1/4 cup vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously.  Strain into a prepared martin glass and serve.  Or, for a faster preparation, mix all the tamarind water, all the vodka, and some ice in a large pitcher and pour the mixture into each martini glass.

Tamarind History and a Few Fun Facts:
  • Botanically speaking, tamarind is native to tropical Africa, but because it is so prevalent in India, many people believe it originated there.  
  • It grows wild in Sudan and can be found in many other African countries as well
  • Arab traders traded tamarind to India and today, India is the number one producer of tamarind
  • The Portuguese introduced tamarind to the East Indies
  • The Spanish traders took tamarind to the Philippines and then to Mexico
  • Early colonists distributed tamarind throughout the Americas during the 17th century
  • Although India is the largest commercial cultivator of tamarind today, it is also produced in Mexico, Sudan, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tanzania
  • The ancient Egyptians cultivated tamarind
  • The etymology of the word "tamarind" shows that it comes from the Arabic "tamar," or date, and "hindi," which means "Indian," hence "tamar hindi," or tamarind, Indian date
  • The tartaric acid, a powerful antioxidant, found in the pulp pairs well with both meat and vegetable dishes 
  • A tamarind tree can grow up to 80n feet in height, making it among the largest of the tropical trees belonging to the Fabaceae family
  • Each fruit pod has a brittle outer shell which encases the soft, fibrous pulp, and contains up to 10 hard dark-brown seeds
  • African children often use the  seeds from tamarind pods are often used in games
  • Minerals found in tamarind pulp include: copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium
  • Rich in vitamins, including thiamin, vitamin A, Vitamin C as well as folic acid, niacin,  and riboflavin
  • Tamarind is rich in phytochemicals such as limocen, safrole, and cinnamic acid
  • Tamarind has beend used as an emulsifying agent in syrups and decoctions in various pharmaceutical products 
  • Fresh tamarind pods are available in late spring and early summer seasons, but process tamarind (i.e. in blocks, slices, paste, concentrates, balls, syrups, etc) are available throughout the year
  • In India, a special wooken stick is kept in the kitchen for the purpose of beating the pulp to remove the seeds
  • Tamarind blends well with other flavors; one popular drink blends the pulp with dates, sugar or honey, cardamom, cloves, and coriander seeds
  • Tamarind pulp is also sued as a solidifying agent in confectionaries
  • Tamarind has no known reported cases of allergic or toxicity
  • Eye drops exist that are made from tamarind seeds to ease dry eye syndrome (the seeds contain polysaccharide, which is adhesive and sticks to the surface of the eye for longer durations compared to other eye meds)
  • To alleviate biliousness and bile conditions, tamarind juice is drunk with lemon, milk, honey and dates
  • Combining the seeds with equal portions of cumin and sugar is a cure for dysentery, as is tamarind milk
  • Tamarind has even been used to combat body odor!

Health Benefits:
  • Because of the refrigerant properties of tamarind, it makes a good drink for anyone suffering from fever
  • Tamarind is packed with vitamin B and calcium
  • Tamarind is also slightly laxative
  • The sticky pulp is a rich source of non-starch fiber which increases the bulk of food and augments bowel movements
  • The fiber found in tamarind binds to toxins, thus helping to protect the colon mucus membrane from cancer-causing chemicals
  • The fibers in the pulp also bind to bile salts, which helps protect from cholesterol and aids in the expulsion of LDL cholesterol levels from the body
  • As with all ancient foods, tamarind has a long history of medicinal uses which range from easing stomach discomfort, aiding digestion, treating fevers, and use a a laxative
  • Sore throat, rheumatism, inflammation, and sunstroke have all been treated with tamarind
  • Dried or boiled leaves and flowers have been commonly used as poultices for swollen joints, sprains, boils, hemorrhoids, and conjunctivitis
  • Tamarind is best avoided by those who have diabetes as it is high in sugar
  • A brief breakdown in tamarind's health benefits shows that  its vitamin B content aids the nervous system;  its magnesium helps keep the bones strong; because if its high source of fiber, it helps overcome constipation and aids digestion; its high levels of potassium helps control blood pressure; its high iron content helps prevent anemia; the thiamin and niacin found in tamarind help control cholesterol levels; the riboflavin content of tamarind helps release energy from carbohydrates; rich in calcium, tamarind helps the process of blood clotting (with vitamin K);
  • the vitamin C found in tamarind helps maintain healthy teeth and gums; and among all the fruits and vegetables, tamarind is the highest source of protein, which can help produce antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria

Global Uses of Tamarind:
  • In Ghana, it is used to make a poisonous yam palatable and safe
  • In India it often appears in chutneys, curries (particularly vindaloo curries), rassams, and sauces and is used in ayurvedic medicine as a digestive, laxative, tonic, anthelminthic, antipyretic, and astringent, plus as a treatment for sore throat, urinary problems, some venereal diseases, ulcers, liver disease, and more
  • In Guadeloupe it is often found in jams and syrups
  • In Java, tamarind often livens up fish
  • Throughout Southeast Asia tamarind appears on the table in a variety of dishes from condiments to drinks to main-dish sauces, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines 
  • In the Philippines tamarind can be found in several soups and candies; the leaves are also popular as a soup ingredient
  • In Thailand a special cultivar has been developed to yield a fresh fruit that is sweeter and less sour than is usual
  • In Thailand, it also often is eaten in a sour curry and of course, no self-respecting Pad Thai dish would be authentic without it!
  • In Mexico it is used in sauces, snacks, and sweets--almost always paired with chiles
  • Balls of tamarind pulp (see photo above) rolled in chile are common in Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, and particularly Mexico, where it flourishes (it is also found in other Latin American countries to a lesser degree)
  • Throughout Africa it is a common food plant used to boost nutrition
  • In Nigeria a breakfast porridge is made of tamarind and millet powder to be eaten with bean cakes
  • In southern Kenya along the coast, tamarind is used to garnish beans and legumes and also to make juices
  • In Myanmar, young, tender leaves and flower buds are eaten as a vegetable
  • In Myanmar, the leaves are often made into a salad with boiled beans, peanuts, and fried onions
  • In the Chinese province of Yunnan, tamarind is used in jams and chilled drinks
  • In Lebanon a commercial tamarind soft drink is sold
  • Throughout the Middle East and Iran, tamarind is used in savory meat stews, often combined with other fruits
  • In Turkey tamarind is consumed as a cold drink
  • Tamarind leaves make up about 50% of the food source for ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar
  • Throughout Southeast Asia, tamarind is used as a poultice for fever
  • The dense and durable wood of the tamarind tree has a strong red color, making it popular for furniture making and hard wood flooring
  • Tamarind concentrate can also be sued to remove the tarnish from brass and copper
                                (Thank you, Wikipedia, for much of this)

Parting Shot:  Rain Buddha
Photo taken by my dear friend Tom in his garden here in San Miguel

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved

Flavors of the Sun Cooking School and Travel
San Miguel de Allende,