Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tamarind Rice

Tamarind Pods
Well, it has happened again.  I am on an Indian food kick that can't be tamed.  I haven't actually bothered to cook any this week, but I have been eating it every chance I get and could seriously eat it at every meal if I allowed myself.  Last night I had a delicious black gram lentil dal and samosas.  It was the best dinner and so simple.  I  was just craving those deep, layered spices and the hearty lentil and bean mixture was the perfect vehicle.

Instant Tamarind!
Before I head out of town tonight for the more stoic cuisine of Cape Cod, I will give myself one more richly spiced food fix.  As usual, I headed to my trusty copy of American Masala, by Suvir Saran.  Tamarind Rice is an outrageously good side dish that would be a great accompaniment to an Indian meal, but it also would make a lovely side dish to a more classic American meal.  It pairs nicely with grilled veggies, fish, or chicken and is able to really liven up many menus.

According to Wikipedia, tamarind is an "indehiscent legume" sometimes called a pod, 12 to 15 cm (3 to 6 inches) in length with a hard, brown shell.  The fruit has a fleshy, juicy, acidulous pulp.  The tamarind is best described as sweet and sour in taste, and high in acid, sugar, and vitamin B  and, interestingly for a fruit, calcium.  If you have trouble finding the tamarind concentrate at your regular market, check an Indian spice store, Asian market, or specialty store. 

Tamarind Rice
Serves 8
1 tablespoon, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
16 dried curry leaves, roughly torn (optional, but so good in this so try to get some)
6 dried red chiles
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
7 cups cooked brown or white basmati rice, spread out on a baking sheet and cooled to room temperature

If you haven't done it yet, cook the rice and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Place the tamarind in a small bowl. and pour the warm water over it.  Whisk together until the tamarind is completely dissolved and set aside.  
Heat the oil, peanuts, and mustard seeds in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat until mustard seeds begin to pop, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the curry leaves, chiles, cumin, and turmeric and cook until the peanuts are golden, about 1 1/2 minuts.  Add the onion, salt, and curry and cook until the onion is dot, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often (if onion begins to burn, turn the heat down).  Add the tamarind water and cook until the water is evaporated, stirring often for about 2 minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is hot, about 2 minutes (if the rice was in the refrigerator it will take an extra 2 to 4 minutes to warm up), stirring once or twice to make sure nothing burns at the bottom of the pan.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

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