Provocative and powerful, tamarind’s sourness and pungency confine it to the savory side of cooking unless you counterbalance it with sweetness and piquancy. Overcoming tartaric acid — a chemical responsible for tamarind’s sourness — requires about as much sugar as tamarind by weight. Then you need spices, and that’s where things get interesting. Spices separate the type of tamarind candy you get in India from the type you get in Malaysia, and the kind you get in Mexico from the version you find in Thailand.
Things You'll Need
Soak the tamarind pulp in 2 1/2 times its weight in water for 30 minutes. For example, if you have a 16-ounce package of tamarind paste, soak it in 5 cups of hot water.
Transfer the pulp to a mesh strainer set over a mixing bowl. Press the tamarind through the strainer using a rubber spatula. If you have trouble pressing the tamarind through, pout a little hot water over it to help it along.
Add an equal amount of coarse, raw sugar, such as palm, demerara or turbinado, to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. For example, if you strained 16 ounces of tamarind into the pot, add 16 ounces of sugar to a saucepan.
Add just enough hot water to wet the sugar and set it on the stove over medium-low heat. Cook the sugar just until it dissolves and add it to the bowl of tamarind.
Add a pinch of salt and spices to the tamarind; start with about 1 tablespoon of spices per 1 pound of tamarind and add more to taste. For a Mexican-style tamarind candy, add chili powder; for Indian-style candies, add cumin seeds and chili powder; for a Middle-Eastern style candy, add sesame seeds or pistachios.
Stir the candy until well combined. Portion about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of tamarind at a time and roll it into a ball or a short cylinder in your palms. Transfer the formed candy to a tray lined with parchment paper.
Roll the candy in sugar, glaze the candy in heavy syrup, garnish it with sesame seeds or leave it as is. Wrap the candy in cellophane squares or store it in layers in an airtight container, with each layer separated with parchment paper.
There is no master recipe for tamarind candy, and you can add any spice or textural component you like. Add crushed nuts and seeds for texture, or chopped dried fruits to contrast the tamarind’s tartness.
References and ResourcesThe Kitchn: Ingredient Spotlight: Tamarind
Nibbles and Feasts: Mexican Candy 101: Home Made Classics
Fine Cooking: Tamarind