The benefits of tamarind are innumerable. Though it contains the taste of sour, it is nothing short of ambrosia in the kitchen. It has its own powerful taste. It can even be called a catalyst in as much as it gives a lot of favour to the main dish or side dish without discrimination, starting with sambar, rasam to fried and gravy items. It not only gives the reddish tinge to the sambar but also a unique taste.
The origin of tamarind is the hot and tropical regions of Africa. It has its own exclusive space in the spice container box in countries like India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Tamarind has several names such as Ambiram, Sindhuram, Thinthuruni, Ekin, Chintham and Chinthagam etc. Its usage is right from the period of Samanars for which there is historical evidence. They used to drink pomegranate, dates and tamarind fruit or pulp.
The sour taste in the tamarind is due to the presence of tartaric acid which is in abundance. Apart from this, the micronutrients like lime, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine are also available. In addition to kitchen use, the tamarind is used for the medicinal purpose also such as for healing wounds, setting right the lung path and enabling easy digestion etc. in African nations. The essence of tamarind is used as anti-venom also for the snake bite. The Nutritional Research finding reveals that the essence of tamarind is capable of preventing the creation of stones in the kidney. The tests conducted on animals further disclose the fact that the tamarind can stop the growth of cancerous cells in the body. It is also to be noted that the tannins and saponins present in tamarind contain the potency to kill the virus in the body. It will further contain the swellings in the body and reduce the pain thereunder.
It would be interesting to note its various benefits in the edible items throughout the world. In West Bengal, the tamarind pickle is mostly used. The tamarind chutney prepared in the region of Gujarat and Rajasthan will cause a mouth-watering feeling. The traditional Worcestershire sauce made out of tamarind, clove, onion and garlic with anchovy fish is world-famous. The tamarind fruit is used to prepare ‘Sadai’ in Malaysia and various other soups prepared in China.
It is the practice in Thailand to mix sugar with tamarind and consume. In Philipines, the people add tamarind with potato and make ‘Champoy’ for their favourite intake. In general, a proper mixture of paneer and lime juice with tamarind will ensure proper digestion. The juice made out of tamarind essence will kindle the taste buds, especially in Jamaica. The tamarind juice with clove, pepper and cardamom will strengthen the digestive organs in the body. In order to reduce the heat in the body, we can take palm jaggery and lime juice with the overnight-soaked tamarind.
It is common practice in villages that the local youth will be able to quench their thirst and hunger by consuming tamarind pulp and fruit. It is impossible for anyone to miss this during their boyhood days. It is a natural food available free of cost. It will prevent vomiting sensation and indigestion. Moderate use of tamarind will push out the worms from the intestine.
Another medicinal use is that it can be mixed with nilavagai, known as senna and coriander seed and soaked in hot water for an hour. Then we can filter it and add sugar. This will eliminate all the waste products from our body. Tamarind is also used to arrest the cause of piles disease by mixing it with bhringraj keerai and taking a gooseberry size daily.
Again history reveals that the tamarind fruit, its seed, sugar, cardamom and other fruits used to be mixed together to prepare a palatable juice, according to and as mentioned in the book, ‘Manasallosa’. Another record of the 13th century, as created by Marco Polo, confirms the mention of ‘Indian Fruit’ or ‘Indian Dates’. Our people had taken this tamarind essence along with fish or mutton as a sauce also.
During the Sangam period, our people used to boil the mutton with tamarind and pepper and then prepare crushed paste out of it. Our forefathers had used this appetizer as a start-up before their food. Kannada book indicates that our people had also used it as a pickle which was prepared with tamarind and amla fruit. Tamarind was one of the most important ingredients in their famous non-vegetarian food, ‘sorbodel’.
In Andhra Pradesh, the people are in the habit of mixing sugar and proportionate salt with tamarind for their consumption as a drink. They mix tamarind fruit and palm jaggery together and the sweetened taste interests them more. One research finding further states that it controls the problem of fluorosis.
In regard to joint pain and beginning stage of osteoporosis, the pirandai, known as ‘adamant creeper’ can be pounded and the essence mixed with water and tamarind. If we heat it with little salt it will become like a paste. This paste is a remedy to the joint pain and arthritis.
Tamarind can be preserved in a vessel made of sand or ceramics for durability. If the tamarind is new, the sour taste will be more and if it is little old, the taste will be little sweeter. Normally, those who have skin problem should avoid use of excess tamarind. The Siddha medicine would advocate total ban on the use of tamarind for most of the diseases. However, it is necessary to understand that while tamarind has its own advantages, the excess use would show the negative results.
Tamarind rice, as known presently, was once called ‘tamarind curry’. It is a vegetarian item which is made by mixing the boiled rice with tamarind, pepper. Its further process is that it can be added with slices of mango, jaggery, neem flowers and salt and again boiled in water with tamarind essence. This can be used in summer season and it is a tradition too.
Various tamarind-based food items:-
Pulparindo:- This can be prepared at our home itself. Tamarind can be pressed into various shapes and floated in the jaggery syrup. We can add a bit of chilli for sharp taste. This is a type of candy prepared in western countries.
Caribbean dip:- We have to take half cup tamarind and soak in water. Then we should mix 5 teaspoons brown sugar and heat the same slightly. When the brown sugar gets dissolved we must add half a cup cut onion, 2 teeth of garlic and 2 dried chillies before frying. After ten minutes, we can add pine apple juice and tomato juice as needed after which we can add pepper powder and coriander leaves. We will get a toothsome side dish for rice as well as non-vegetarian items.
Tamarind Curd Vada:- This is very famous in the north regions of our country. Tamarind essence can be mixed with curd and we can put urad vada to get nice and delicious Tamarind Curd Vada. People in the north have a special preference for this item.
Special Syrup:- Tamarind can be mixed with the essence of jamun fruit, mangoes, grapes, wood apple and jack fruit along with honey and water to make this special syrup. This was used for medical purpose also in the past. During summer, it is our practice to mix tamarind with mere honey and water which will be highly tasty.
Rajabhanam:- The juice of wood apple or amla fruit was once mixed in boiled milk which should be kept for some time. After some time, people used to add tamarind, cardamom and sugar before mixing it strongly. This was a special item meant to be used for the kings in the palace.
Tamarind ginger:- Last but not the least is ‘tamarind ginger’. The dried and cut ginger can be put along with the tamarind-soaked water and fried. It will not only be tasty but also facilitate easy digestion. It will also control and cure vomiting and regurgitation tendency.
Thus tamarind is a significant ingredient in the spice box container provided it is used optimally.
(This article written in Tamil by Dr V Vikram Kumar in Aval Vikatan magazine dt 14/5/19 has been transcreated in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)