Why It Works
- Using tamarind concentrate simplifies the process.
- A 20-minute simmer and a few spices thicken the sauce and balance the sweet and sour flavors.
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 a little more work and a couple ingredients from the Indian grocery. First I needed tamarind—the pods that grow from a tamarind tree that contain sweet and sour pulp used in many Asian cuisines—but not wanting to take the time to soak, strain, and then seed the dried 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 and a tang that eventually turned a little sour, but never enough to outdo the sugary component. A hint of heat, cumin, and ginger rounded out the sauce. I only used this sauce with 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.
2 cups (16 ounces) water
2 tablespoons (30ml) tamarind concentrate (see note)
1 cup (155g) jaggery sugar (see note)
1/2 teaspoon (1.5g) black salt or Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon (1g) cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon (1g) ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon (1g) ginger powder
Heat water over medium-high heat until just boiling. Add in tamarind concentrate and stir until completely incorporated. Add jaggery, salt, cayenne, cumin, and ginger. Stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened to a point that it's slightly syrupy, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool for 10 minutes. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Tamarind concentrate and jaggery sugar can be found at most East Asian and Indian supermarkets or specialty grocers. If you can't find jaggery, dark brown or demerara sugar can be used in its place.