Understanding the Importance of Tamarind in Thai Food

November 17, 2021
IN Thai Cuisine

Tamarind may be one of the most important components in creating the best Thai food. It is responsible for creating some of the distinct flavors found in several popular dishes and dipping sauces.

Chances are that you’ve tasted Tamarind and you loved it, but do you have any idea what it is?

If you really want to choose the best Thai food you should first know about one of its best ingredients! This guide will explain what tamarind is and how it’s used in Thai cooking.

What Is Tamarind?

Tamarind comes from the tamarind tree and is native to Asia. More tamarind is produced in India and Thailand than anywhere else in the world. 

The tree produces pods of fruit that have a sweet and sour taste. Drying the pods or using them unripened will amplify the sourness and sweetness.

The sweet and sour flavor of tamarind helps to give many Thai dishes their distinct and recognizable tastes.

Tamarind is high in magnesium and antioxidants. It can reduce inflammation and help digestion. Tamarind can even protect neurological health, remove fluoride deposits from bones, and improve cardiovascular health.

How Is Tamarind Used?

Using fresh tamarind pods is ideal in Thai cooking. The pods are opened and the skin and the stringy membrane are removed leaving just the pulp.

The pulp is then soaked in warm water and pushed through a mesh sieve to filter out seeds and any remaining skin. The warm water is then added back to the strained pulp until the desired consistency is achieved.

The pulp mixture is then pressed through a sieve until a tamarind paste is formed. Already prepared pulp and pastes are available, but using fresh pods will produce the best flavor.

Best Thai Food That Uses Tamarind

Pad Thai is usually the most popular dish on any Thai menu, and tamarind is a crucial ingredient. The dish consists of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, onion, and ground peanuts in a tamarind sauce.

Som Tum, or Papaya Salad, is another Thai staple that uses tamarind. Green papaya, carrots, tomato, and dried shrimp are seasoned with tamarind, lime, and fish sauce.

Many Thai soups such as Tom Yum use the tamarind flavor in their broths. Tamarind is also an essential ingredient in many Thai curry recipes.

Nam phrik phao uses tamarind and can be used as a sauce, condiment, dip, or as a spread. Several other dips and sauces also use tamarind for flavoring. 

Tamarind Is An Allstar Thai Ingredient

Tamarind is versatile and one of the most important ingredients in the best Thai food. Now you know what tamarind is, where it comes from, and how it’s used in Thai cooking.

We’re sure you’ll recognize its awesome flavor the next time you’re in Seattle dining at Thai Ginger! We have several locations and hope to see you very soon!

Sign Up for Our Mailing List