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Having been impressed with the simplicity and freshness of making mint chutney at home, I decided to tackle the brown sweet and sour condiment that usually sits next to it at most Indian restaurants—sweet tamarind chutney.
While the mint chutney was exceedingly quick to put together, this required just a little more work and a couple ingredients that necessitated a trip to my Indian grocery. First I needed tamarind—the pods that grow from a tamarind tree that contain sweet and sour seeds used in many Asian cuisines—but not wanting to take the time to soak and then seed the fruit, I took a shortcut and opted for a bottle of tamarind concentrate instead.
This sped things up and turned what would have been a potentially hour-long process to just mixing a couple tablespoons of the concentrate with water. To this I added jaggery—a hard brown sugar made from sugarcane and the sap from a date palm tree—salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, and ginger powder. Twenty minutes of simmering reduced this mixture to the slightly thick, slightly syrupy sauce I was familiar with, and the flavor was spot-on.
The tamarind chutney started with a deep sweetness with a bit of tanginess that eventually turned a little sour, but never enough to outdo the sugary component. At the end, a light spice came out, with a hint of heat and fleeting tastes of the cumin and ginger. I had only really used this sauce with the papadum and samosas it's usually served with in restaurants, but now with a batch of it at home, I'm sure I can find a lot more to do with it.
About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.