Friday, December 7, 2007

Tamarind Fruit Pickle

Tamarind Pickles For Pat's Asiana's Cafe

I have wanted to post a recipe sometimes after drooling over recipes by others especially by Pak Idrus of in passing - malaysian, zaitgha of Day In Day Out and by another by another American girl I cant seem to find. I have tried one of zaitgha's recipe rendang daging cili api with my daughter and the dish turnout to be very well received especially by my most vocal of critics, my wife Fatthiyah who said the recipe doesnt have enough ingredient to make it into a rendang. The most noticeable absence was the curry powder. We did try the recipe without the cury powder but we added the kerisek and daun curry to enhance the flavour to suit our taste. The rendang was really mean due to the abundant use of the potent chili padi to suit my own lust for hot food. Wonder of wonders, this dish was finished in record time when everyone except the small kids turn to like it when we serve it to the family on the morning of Eidil Fitri. It went well when served with the nasi himpit(compressed rice).

When visiting Pat's Asiana's Cafe, I promise her that I will send her some tamarind pickles for her to serve at her new cafe.

The tamarind tree is a large tropical tree with small leaves attached to a profusion of branches. The tree produces seasonal fruits that begins to bear them sometimes in August and all the fruits will have dropped off completely after ripening by the end of November based on the last seasons observation. The fruits are attached at the very end of the branches and thus collection is quite difficult for a tall tree if unripe fruits are to be collected. Unripe fruit can be taken raw if you can bear the very acid taste. It can be pickled and I consider that this is the best way to enjoy it.

Ripe tamarind is used to make tamarind paste. Most paste come from Thailand or India. The main use of tamarind paste is in making cordial drinks which is soothing to the throat. When added to cookings to give it a special taste. My fish head curry will never be complete without it nor is my my canned sardine fish dishes. I used to apply the slightly diluted paste on fresh water fishes to remove the hanyir (fishy) smell as well as to make the flesh of the fish firmer. Tamarind paste is a good natural preservative.

For the pickles, matured but underipe tamarind fruits is needed. Too young a fruit will make the seeds inside to become soft and ejecting it out while eating will be difficult. Collecting the fruits from the tree is often difficult as my sister in law found out. Since she has the fruits growing on her own tree, I guess she had no choice but to pluck them from the tree by using a long pole with a metal hook tied at one end.

I chose the easier way out by buying the fruits from the Pasir Mas market and made the process easier still by buying the deskinned fruits at RM4.00 a kg. A kg of the fruits cost RM2.00. Knowing how difficult it is to peel off the skin, RM4.00 a kg was definitely a good buy. The price shot up to RM5.00 the next day due to better quality fruit size. The one in the picture is the latter. Removing the skin can be made easier by blanching the fruits in hot boiling water.

Fresh tamarind fruit without the skin

For this occassion I used 3 kg of the peeled fruit. (My first trial of 2 kg was finished in slightly more than a day by two persons, me and my wife with me consuming the most of course).

Now for the ingredients:

For 3 kg of tamarind fruits.

1. 6 pieces of gula melaka (cocnut sugar) the size of a CD each. (About half kg)

Gula Melaka (Coconut sugar)

2. 15 dried chilles devoid of its seed and core.

Dried Chillies

3. 15 chilly padi (the hottest kind) reduce the amount or none at all if kids are to consume it.

Chili Padi Pedas

Hey thats about all!

The way to do it(cara membuatnya):

Place the fruits in a suitable sized container which is able to stand boiling hot water. Immerse the fruits in water till all are covered up with the water. Apply a dose of salt (about 2 tablespoonfuls) and stir till all the salt is dissoved let it stand it for 10 minutes. The purpose of the salt is to sterilise the fruits without boiling it. Did you know that salt is a good germkiller beside being a good preservative? A brine solution which is water with dissolved table salt can be used to relieve sore throat by gargling with it. I do it often when my tonsilities make its unrequested appearance. It can also be used as an antidote for chemical poisoning when no other antidote such as coconut water is not available. Atropine is the recconmended antidote but where to get atropine in an emergency? If the guy chose to use unadulterated paraquat is which is a banned weedkiller, forget about it. Even tokasid can't save him what more that he is now holidaying in Egypt. The paraquat will burn his internal tissues in no time. That is why paraquat is banned all over the world, but it was only recently banned in Malaysia.
After 10 minutes decant the brine solution so that most of the salt is removed.

While waiting for the ten minutes to lapse, soak the decored dried chillies in hot water and after awhile it will be softened blend it with some water. Dont forget to add the chilly padi to taste.

In another pot warm up a litre of water and add the coconut sugar and the blended chillies. Bring it to a boil until all the coconut sugar is dissolved. Remove the coconut sugar casing rings if you are too lazy (like me) to remove it earlier.

Now pour the boiling hot coconut sugar solution in the container full of the tamarind fruits (devoid of the brine solution). Let them cool and stand overnight. If you dont like the lizard to taste it before you do, make sure it is kept covered under the saji (traditional malay food cover which nowadays can be made of plastic) Since no other stronger peservative like Boric acid is used as is found in most pickles nowadays, fungus may develop when it is exposed to the atmosphere or when contaminated utensils like spoons or ladles are used. Keeping them in the fridge will give them a longer shelf life . Dont worry much about fungus developing if you have a big family, it will be consumed in no time. The tasting alone will ensure that not much will be left for those who wants to wait till the next day when the ingredient will penetrate fully into the fruits flesh. The Johoreans call it sudah mesra.
Who says cooking is boring?

The kitchen where the pickles were made.

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