Tart and sweet. This fruit based drink is especially good with spicy food or any time really. It’s as good as a good lemonade. If asked to choose between the two, I would reach for tamarind. Why? It’s easy to buy a good lemonade but a good tamarind drink? Rather difficult.

Canned ones are not good so don’t waste your calories there. The bottled syrups that are available to me have a metallic taste to it. I stay away from those too. I can only get my drink fix from this one hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant. In fact, I always order 2 drinks there, their drip coffee and the tamarind drink.

The latter comes with a generous scoop of freshly roasted unsalted peanuts. As strange as it sounds, I can’t even begin to tell you what a great combination it is. Actually, if one can have a bowl of peanuts with beer then a tamarind drink goes even better with peanuts.  It is added straight into your drink so you don’t have to soil your fingers picking on those nuts. A convenient long-handled spoon is provided to pop peanuts into mouth. I say that’s a very well thought out drink!

Tamarind Drink With A Spoonful Of Roasted Peanuts

Prep: 25 minutes 
Cook: 25 minutes
Inactive: ~1 hour for syrup to cool down
Level: Easy but fiddly
Makes: ~12 glasses
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Yes, keeps very well for at least 4 weeks refrigerated and longer in the freezer.

Ingredients

~ 1 lb (450g) fresh tamarind pods* OR ~1 cup of tamarind paste**OR a mix of the above 2 items in any ratio
~1 and 3/4 cups or enough sugar to sweeten and thicken into a light syrup
~ 1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
*Fresh tamarind are between very sweet or sweet-tart tasting.
** Tamarind paste are partially processed as in most of the fruit’s fibre and some seeds have been removed. It is very sour and often sold compressed into a flat rectangle block or bottled in glass or plastic containers. It would be displayed on supermarket shelves. You should find it easily at Asian grocery stores.  I have also seen, though rarely nowadays, tamarind concentrate (where pods, seeds & fibres have been removed) packed in canisters and displayed in supermarket freezers. Read the label. Some have sugar added so reduce the amount of sugar added in that case.

Method

Preparing the tamarind pods
1. Break the shells of the tamarind pods by pressing in on them. Discard shells and any pods that look mouldy, too dry or just plain funky. The ones pictured above are all specimens of good pods. Discard all the fibrous membrane covering the fruit.
2. Rinse the tamarind pulp briefly in water without breaking them apart and place in a pot.
3. If you are using tamarind paste, there is no need to rinse them, take out what you want with a clean spoon and place straight into a pot. Store leftover in the refrigerator. They keep a long time.

Let’s make tamarind syrup
1. Fill the pot with enough water to cover a little above the tamarind (either the fresh ones, the paste or both).
2. Cover pot and bring to boil over high heat. Remove cover, reduce heat to simmer away for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn off burner, remove pot and cool completely.
3. With your fingers, remove as much seeds as you can. Strain through a large-holed sift. Use a large faced spoon to press as much as you can through the sift.
4, There is still goodness in the solids left in the sift so transfer that into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix through. Strain this through the sift as well. Now you can discard the solids left behind in the sift.
5. Heat the strained tamarind liquid with ~1 and 3/4 cups of sugar to dissolve the sugar. Watch the pot as it will boil over if left unattended. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the burner. Taste. Adjust sugar amount if necessary. You want it syrupy sweet as you would be diluting with water before serving. You should have 4 cups (1 litre).
6. Cool completely and store in sterilised jars.

To serve
1. Dilute with as much cold water as necessary. Add a tablespoon of roasted peanuts, top with ice cubes and serve with a straw and long handled spoon to get to the peanuts.

Tips

Refrigerate or Freeze

Tamarind syrup keeps a long time in the refrigerator, at least 1 month and even longer in the freezer. Divide into glass jars into a serving size of 3 – 4 drinks per jar.  I keep one jar in the refrigerator so that I can consume it within 4 weeks but it never lasts that long. The other jars are kept in the freezer.

Don’t forget the peanuts!
Toast extra peanuts and keep them fresh by placing them into jars and refrigerate. I always have a little bowl of extra peanuts set out so that anyone can help themselves to extra.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

When I was in Amsterdam, I so enjoyed this drink which was full of pizzazz! Fizzy with a strong bite of ginger, mixed with pineapple juice and a splash of lime. It didn’t take me long to sip through the first glass and a second was promptly ordered. On my return home, I came up with a similar version just so that I can not only sip my way through more than 2 glasses of it but also so that I can have a glass of it whenever I want. I do like my drinks.

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