Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chili Tamarind Paste

I mentioned in my last post that I finally found some tamarind here in ye olde North. Huzzah! I decided that a good way to make of its unique flavour was to make a paste to add to Thai and other Asian dishes. A little work goes a long way here because you can keep this in a glass jar in the fridge for a few months and just add it as you see fit. You can make this as hot or as mild as you want--I kept it pretty mild for the kiddies.

Makes about 2 cups
- generous 1/2 cup dried shitake mushroom pieces (i.e. break up the shrooms a bit to get more into the cup)
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
- 3 shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
- dried red chiles to taste, or red curry paste
- 3 tbsp of tamarind pulp
- 1/4 cup hot water (more if needed)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp mushroom soy sauce
- 1 cup veggie broth (more as needed)

1. Put mushroom pieces in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until soft (about 15 mins). Place tamarind in a bowl and add 1/4 cup of hot water. Set aside.
2. While the mushrooms are soaking, heat oil in a saucepan over medium/med-hi heat. Add garlic and fry for about 1 min, until golden but not brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon.
3. Add shallots to the oil and fry for 1 min. Add chiles and fry for another min (if using curry paste, then skip this step). Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Remove pan from heat.
4. Mash tamarind pulp with a fork until a thick paste forms. Add more water, if needed. Press through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon. Discard fibres and seeds left behind.
5. Drain mushrooms. Place in a food processor along with garlic, shallots, chiles, tamarind paste, sugar, and sauces (and curry paste if you are using that). Begin to process. With motor running add the oil you fried the garlic in. Then slowly add veggie broth. If the mixture is too thick, or not smooth enough, add more broth.
6. Pour mixture back into saucepan and heat over medium heat until bubbling. Cook for 10 mins, sirring regularly, or until sauce darkens and thickens (should be like the consistency of pudding). The oil will separate out, but don't worry, you can stir it back in later.
7. Pour into a glass jar and let cool. Store in the fridge. When cold, stir to mix the oil back in.