Tamarind is a big tree that can live over 100 years that makes Tamarind fruit in pods. When ripe, the shell outside gets dry, hard and easily cracks. You can see the reddish brown flesh inside. The dark brown seeds are shinny and hard on the outside. The fruit can be eaten ripe and unripe. Fruit, young leaves and flowers are used in Thai cooking In general, there two varieties of tamarind, the sweet and the sour. The sweet ripened fruit are eaten directly and also dipped in sugar and chili pepper as a snack. The sour tamarind is used in cooking only.
Tamarind Balls:This is a ball, block or cube of tamarind fruit with seeds. You can find tamarind balls, at most Asian, South Asian and Hispanic markets. You can turn them into tamarind paste by soaking tamarind balls in warm water and squeezing out the pulp.
Tamarind Paste: The tamarind paste is made from tamarind pulp that is dried. You can take a teaspoon of tamarind paste and add the same amount of water, microwave it and get ready to use tamarind paste. Tamarind Sauce The tamarind sauce that you buy here in the US is the pulp and water of the fruit of a Tamarind tree. It's watery. One brand comes in a short plastic jar with red plastic lid and has the picture of a tamarind fruit on the outside. Another comes in a small glass jar with white lid.
Tamarind Drink: The tamarind juice that you get here comes in a can. It's a good, refreshing juice to drink when it's hot. You can make a drink from it with a tablespoon of tamarind pulp and a tablespoon of sugar mixed in a glass of water and ice. But be careful about how much you drink because it can be a mild laxative.
Other uses for tamarind: In Thailand, the wood of the Tamarind tree is the best for cutting board because it is soft for the knife blade. You would see this thick round cutting board that is a cross section of a tamarind tree 4-5 inches in height and up to 3 feet in diameter in most kitchens in Thailand. On the picture on the right, the wood pieces are soaked in brine, prepping for cutting boards.