Saturday, May 23, 2015

South Indian Recipe Series: What is Tamarind?

My new essay with two recipes, one for Tomato Dal, which uses tamarind, and the other for a delicious accompaniment to the Dal, a recipe for Baby Radish Raita.

The essay and recipes are available on The Aerogram.

Tomato Dal

Baby Radish Raita
The flavor of tamarind — a fruity sourness — is a cornerstone of South Indian cooking. It’s more often than not paired with jaggery, especially in the cuisines of the northern part of Karnataka. Tamarind makes an appearance in South Indian staples such as rasam (a thin lentil soup), sambhar or dal (lentil and vegetable gravy), gojju (a condiment in which tamarind is the central ingredient and jaggery the able sidekick; it is served as an accompaniment to rice and rotis), chutneys and chutney powders.

Whenever I think of the tamarind and its role in a meal, I am reminded of a guitarist or a pianist, who as they are playing pieces in the center of their instruments, suddenly swoop down to the edge, to the bottom of the neck in the guitar or the edge of the piano keys, and strike a note that reverberates long after their fingers have gone back to the center. The tamarind is that note at the end — sharp, high pitched, with a taste that stays long after you’ve gone back to the somber breads or rice.

Chapati and Rice served with Tomato Dal and Baby Radish Raita