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Tamarind comes from a brown bean-pod from the tamarind tree. Native to Africa, tamarind is now cultivated in India and the Arab Gulf states as well. Tamarind has a long history of use in the cuisines of tropical areas, from Mexico to Cameroon to Indonesia. In Hindu mythology, tamarind is associated with the wedding of the god Krishna which is celebrated by a feast in November.
Tamarind is used primarily as a souring agent -- more authentic than vinegar or lemon juice in Indian cooking, and a fresh, tart taste in Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine. Tamarind is commonly used in soups, sauces, curries and poultry, fish, lentil and rice dishes. In the West Indies of the Caribbean, tamarind features prominently in fruit drinks. Tamarind also is a great "secret ingredient" for your homemade barbecue sauce, hot sauces, and marinades.
Tamarind contains pectin, making it a useful tool for making homemade jams and jellies. Essential to Worcestershire and HP sauce, tamarind is also used in desserts and other sweet recipes. Make a quick sauce by combining tamarind powder with sugar, water, and a touch of cayenne.