The compressed fruit pulp of the tamarindus indica tree is available in any produce store. Ask for “tamarindo,” pronounced just like the beach town in Guanacaste, or look for the brown packet as shown in photo.
It is a popular ingredient in south Asian recipes; it has an incomparable blend of sweet and sour best described as a full flavored and complex lime juice. It is packed with anti-oxidants, digestive aids, and vitamins that cover the entire alphabet.
Locally, ticos turn these tasty fruits into refreshing drinks—fresco de tamarindo.
This sauce is excellent with shrimp, fish, or chicken. Crispy garlic and cilantro leaves add the finishing touch that is so popular in Thai dishes.
- 1 kilo of medium to large shrimp, peeled and veined (can be replaced by boneless fish or chicken)
- 1 cup of cornstarch for dredging
- 2 cups of vegetable oil for frying
- Salt, pepper, to taste
- 200 grams or ½ packet of solid tamarind pulp
- ½ liter of hot water
- 10 cloves of garlic
- ½ medium size white onion
- 2 green onions finely sliced
- ½ small carrot cut into thin julienne strips
- ½ small red bell pepper (chile dulce rojo) cut into thin julienne strips
- 1 red hot pepper (optional)
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of fish sauce (nam pla)
- Small amount of fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Mix tamarind pulp with hot water so that it becomes loose. Strain with fine sieve. You will need 1/3 cup of the thick liquid, free of seeds and fibers.
- Take 5 garlic cloves and thinly slice to deep fry.
- Finely chop the other 5 cloves or use a garlic press.
- Pour ½ cup of vegetable oil in a small frying pan and fry the garlic slices until they begin to brown. Quickly strain the oil into a larger frying pan with a metal strainer. Be careful because garlic can burn easily.
- Dry the shrimp, fish, or chicken before dredging into the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
- Add the rest of the cooking oil to the strained garlic oil to pan fry the shrimp. Fry until golden and set aside on paper towels. Keep warm while making sauce.
- In a saucepan, heat a small amount of cooking oil, add the garlic, the carrots, the onions, the green onions, the bell peppers until the vegetables are fragrant. Add tamarind, sugar, and fish sauce.
- Pour sauce preparation over the crispy shrimp and garnish with crispy garlic and cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.