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Tamarind juice is a thick liquid made by mashing, infusing, or dissolving concentrated tamarind fruit pulp in water. With its distinctive sweet and sour flavor, it is a common ingredient in the cuisines of many Southeast Asian, African, and Central American nations, and is even a key ingredient in some Western sauces. It can be purchased in a ready-made form or can be prepared at home from a block of tamarind paste.
The tamarind tree, from which tamarind juice is derived, is native to certain parts of Africa and the Middle East. Over the past several centuries, however, it has been introduced to several different tropical regions around the world, including many of the countries of Southeast Asia and Central America. Since the introduction of the tree to these countries, tamarind juice has become a common ingredient in their cuisines.
This juice is known for a flavor that is at once sweet and sour. It is often used to flavor savory dishes such as curries, soups, and salads. Many sweet items, such as jams, frozen fruit bars, smoothie-like beverages, and candies, also incorporate the juice. While many people in Western countries may think of tamarind juice as an exotic flavoring, it is actually a key component of familiar flavorings such as Worcestershire sauce.
Many Asian and Mexican markets sell ready-made tamarind juice in cans or glass containers. This ready-made juice offers convenience to cooks by eliminating the preparation time required to make the juice at home. Many feel, however, that this pre-prepared juice lacks the strong flavor and freshness of juice which has been prepared at home.
Preparing tamarind juice at home requires two ingredients: tamarind paste and water. Tamarind paste, which is widely available in Asian markets, consists of tamarind fruit which has been removed from its pod, deseeded, and then concentrated into an extremely dense block. When preparing tamarind juice, a piece of paste is cut from its block and then mixed into warm water until it forms a uniform liquid. The exact consistency of the liquid will vary depending upon how much water is added, a factor that is usually determined by the nature of the dish in which the juice will be used. Once the paste has been converted into a uniform juice, it can be added to a dish as instructed in the recipe.