A tamarind is also referred to as sampaloc in the Philippines and is a popular Filipino recipe ingredient. It comes from the Tamarind tree, which originated in India. But obviously, this tree has proven to be hearty in other regions, as well.
This date-like fruit is also a common recipe ingredient, in other cultures and can be found in products such as Worcestershire sauce.
Tamarind is used in both its ripe and unripe state. The unripe fruit is quite tart and acidic. It is used primarily in savory dishes. When ripe it is still a bit on the tart side, but used in desserts, sweetened drinks and even as a psychological snack.
Tamarind is also used as the base for many soups and is what gives the Filipino soup Sinigang its sour flavor. Hard candy and suckers made with Tamarind are readily available, in the Filipino marketplace or in local supermarkets along side other Asian ingredients.
The typical tamarind is three to eight inches, in length. As the pods ripen they become juicier and the pulp inside turns reddish-brown, in color. When completely ripe the pod shells becomes very brittle and are easily broken.
Sometimes the pulp dehydrates into a gooey paste that is high in Vitamin B and calcium. This paste is surrounded by coarse strands of fiber. At this stage, large brown seeds can be found in the pulp, as well.
Filipino food is highly regarded an exotic cuisine in many parts of the world and the tamarind or sampaloc is one of the ingredients that sets Filipino food apart from other cuisines of the region.