Saturday, September 23, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Thai Tamarind Candy

     Tamarind is a tropical shrub, albeit one which can grow to be 18 meters (59 feet) tall, so by my standards a really large shrub.  Its origins are a bit mysterious.  It's thought to have originated in tropical areas of Africa, but this isn't conclusively known.  Others think its ancestral home is the Indian subcontinent (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives).  Wherever it was originally born, it's now grown all over the world, in just about any area with the proper tropical climate, such as parts of North America, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Although India does get the prize for cultivating the most of it.
     Rather like the sugar palm tree I talked about two posts back, the tamarind is an incredibly useful plant to humans.  The wood makes for excellent furniture.  The seed oil is used in textile processing, and in the manufacture of industrial adhesives and gums.  The fruit, which is actually a poddy legume, is often consumed as a flavoring agent, or in jams, juices, sweetened drinks, and ice cream.  (It also can be made into an effective metal polisher.)  Nutritionally it contains decent amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.  Tamarind's alleged (folk) medical benefits include treatment for constipation, as a laxative, and to combat fevers.  Finally, the plant is also grown as an ornamental, even sometimes as a bonsai "tree."
     You can see the exact type of candy I bought in the pictures above.  (I'm not up on internet image copyrights, so I hope this is considered "fair use."  If not, I'll remove them.)  The manufacturer is Asia Sun World Corp., Ltd., out of Bangkok, Thailand.  I wasn't able to find out much of anything about this company.  As the pictures hopefully show, the individual candies are brown, and dusted with sugar, and salt.  They were about the size of large beans.  Some of them had black pit-like seeds in them, which I discarded.  Later, I read that these seeds are technically edible, but require so much roasting that they're probably not worth the trouble to most people.  The brownish fruit pulp was very chewy.  The texture, and taste, was fairly reminiscent of ginger candy.  The flavor was decent, kind of sweetish and salty at the same time, like a honey roasted peanut, I suppose.  The hot variety was spicy, but not too extreme.  I couldn't really choose which one was better--both were about equal in quality.  I found both tamarind candies alright, but not awesome.  Certainly they get points for being different.  I'm not sure I'll buy these again, but I would try other tamarind flavored foods.  In fact, after I thought about it, I realized I already have--I drank Goya's tamarind pulp juice, and Jarritos (see August 8, 2013 post) tamarind-flavored soft drink, and enjoyed both, especially the latter.  These candies were another find from the North Carolina based Bitter Melon Asian Grocery which I've referenced in the sugar palm fruit and milkfish posts of the past month.
     Two potential warnings.  One website claimed tamarind could interfere with several drugs, and cause tooth decay, hypoglycemia, and gallstones.  (Although other, more legitimate-looking online articles made no mention of this, so I'm not sure these healthy warnings are true.)  Also, the U.S. Food & Drug Agency issued an alert for the company I bought from in 2009, for alleged issues with "filth."  (For the record, I didn't notice any dirt or contaminants in the candy I ate, and I didn't have any sickness or stomach upset or anything like that afterward, either, so my batch seemed fine.)

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