|Tamarind Paste Has Been Located|
May 31st, 2006
Tamarind paste is a hot ingredient in cookbooks these days, especially if you have a fondness for Asian or Indian inspired dishes. I've been wandering around Seattle in a daze of tamarind wantingness, knowing if I only had some my life would be complete. That's not to suggest that I actively went looking for it though, mostly I just hopefully perused the shelves in all my regular haunts, and then pouted and sighed disconsolately a lot. When that method proved ineffective, I broke down and went to Uwajimaya, the mecca for all things Asian ingredienty.
So, if you're looking for tamarind paste in Seattle, here's how to find it. Go to Uwajimaya, head down one of the middle aisles and find the Thai condiments and pastes section. Then get down on your knees and peer way back on the bottom shelf and there it will be. Or just wander around the store looking confused and loading your basket with exotic impulse buys, and then ask for help.
To celebrate I made a spicy chicken soup from James Peterson's Splendid Soups, an amazing cookbook (that I found at a thrift store for $3. Score!) I generally try to limit myself to one recipe per cookbook here on my blog, just so I don't feel like I'm giving away too many of the author's secrets, but I might have to break that rule with this book. There are just so many recipes! And they all look so good! And I love to cook soup! And use exclamation points!
Anyway, I may have gotten a little over-excited about the fun ingredients and tried to do a little too much while preparing this recipe. It has a sub recipe for Kecap Manis (pronounced ketchup), which is a soy sauce based sauce from Java apparently. You only use 2 tbsp of it in the soup itself, but it can be stored forever and a day in your fridge and used as a marinade. I recommend that if you want to go for it and use it in the soup (and if you can find some curry leaves and galangal - which by the way you can pick up at Uwajimaya while you're getting your tamarind paste) you make it the day before rather than at the same time as the soup. It's a bit much with the chopping and the prepping and the caramelizing of sugars. Thank goodness I had my mom helping out. You can just use regular soy sauce if you don't happen to live five minutes from an Asian food mecca.
The soup itself is tangy (from the tamarind paste!), spicy, and a bit sweet. I'm not quite sure what function the macadamia nuts serve though, as I thought they would be a thickener but mine never broke down enough for that. Maybe I didn't process them enough beforehand. The recipe doesn't call for it, but I did end up straining the broth before serving it, because I just didn't like the bits floating around. I also wimped out and used 2 jalapenos instead of 4, which was probably the right decision for our wimpy palates, but using 4 would definitely please those who love spice.
I'll post the kecap manis recipe tomorrow. For today, you get the soup.
Spicy Chicken Soup from BorneoSoto Banjar5 shallots, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1-2 Thai chilies or 2-4 jalapeno chilies, seeds removed
a 1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled
2 tbsp soy sauce or kecap manis (recipe coming)
12 macadamia nuts
7 cups chicken broth or water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/8- by 2-inch-long strips
a 6-inch length of lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tamarind paste combined with 6 tbsp boiling water, strained
a 1/4-inch slice of galangal (optional)
Prep like mad. Cooking time for this recipe is minimal, so you really want to make sure you have everything chopped and measured before you start. Then combine the shallots, garlic, spices, chilies, ginger, soy sauce, macadamia nuts, and 1/3 of the broth in a food processor. Process until you have a smooth paste.
Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a heavy pan, add the chicken and stir for a minute. Add the spice paste and stir for a couple more minutes.
Add the rest of the broth or water, lemongrass, scallions, tamarind, and galangal and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. You may want to strain the broth through a fine mesh seive before serving. Serve hot.
-Splendid Soups, James Peterson