When my Mom was visiting back in April, tamarind chutney was on my own personal short list to cover with her. This sweet and sour brown sauce is one of my favorites. You may have been served this condiment at an Indian restaurant but let me assure you that the homemade version is far superior in my opinion. The sauce served at dining establishments usually includes dates and I often find it way too sweet for my palate. My version, below, has the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. And you control the sugar level so you can totally customize it to your taste.
I love this stuff with samosas, use it to make the puffed rice street food called bhel puri, and add it to pickled onions to take them over the top. I also have a sneaky suspicion that this sauce would be absolutely divine on chicken wings – but I need to try that before I firmly recommend it.
Making it will require you to purchase a brick of tamarind at your local Indian market or online. But the good news there is first of all, tamarind is inexpensive and the brick should run you less than $3. Second, one 7oz brick of tamarind yields quite a bit of chutney – think 3-4 cups so you will have much to show for your labor. The chutney freezes beautifully and also lasts in the fridge for several weeks so don’t worry if you aren’t able to use it all quickly.
The process of making the chutney is not hard but it does take a few hours mainly because after you microwave the tamarind brick with some water, you need to let that mixture cool before you can work with it. Then you pick out any seeds with your hands, do a little blending, transfer the mixture to the stove top and add a handful of ingredients and boom, you have chutney. Whenever I serve this to folks for the first time they are always wowed by the depth of flavor. I remember bringing it to a potluck a few years ago and the leftover sauce was whisked away by my host with her muttering under her breath that she was going to try it with her cereal the next morning. Yep, it’s that good.
- 1 7 oz. brick of tamarind
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tbl dried ginger powder
- 2 black cardamom optional
- 2-3 small bay leaf
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp black salt
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Put the tamarind brick in a microwave safe container (I use a 9 inch square glass baking dish) and add 4 cups of water.
- Microwave for 15 minutes.
- Let the tamarind cool until you can touch it. I usually let it sit out overnight but an hour or two should suffice.
- While the tamarind cools, roast the black cardamom (if using) and bay leaves in a dry pan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the leaves start to turn a little golden.
- Crush the bay leaves and black cardamom in a spice grinder to a fine powder.
- Run your hands through the tamarind pulp and try to take out as many seeds as you can. Even though the packets are supposed to be seedless I find 1-2 seeds every time.
- Transfer the tamarind to the blender and puree until smooth. It should be just a bit thinner than maple syrup. If it is thicker than that, thin with water until you reach the desired consistency.
- Run the tamarind puree through a fine mesh strainer or even a colander with small holes to catch any leftover fibers.
- Transfer the strained tamarind puree to a small saucepan and add the roasted cardamom and bay leaf, the sugar, and the remaining spices. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Let it boil for 30 second and then turn it off. The chutney should almost look like a slighter chocolate syrup. Taste for salt and sugar and adjust as needed.
Nilong Vyas says
I made homemade tamarind paste (for your chole masala) and I still have that in the freezer, can I use that and just put in the blended spices and sugar? Add water to get the right consistency?
Shveta Berry says
How did you make the tamarind paste? I think it should be a fine substitute. You might need to thin it out with a little water. Let me know how it goes!