Imli (Tamarind) Chutney
This is the 2nd installment in my 5 part series about Indian Street Food. The first installment was Dhaniya (Coriander) Chutney, the third is Dry Kala Chana (Black Chickpeas), the 4th is Aloo (Potatoes) for Chaat and the 5th is coming soon! =)
Imli (Tamarind) Chutney is the sweet and sour counterpart to the salty, spicy and slightly bitter Dhaniya (Coriander) Chutney. As I mentioned in my last post on Dhaniya (Coriander) Chutney, these 2 chutneys are the ketchup and mustard of North India. They are used in a variety of applications, most often associated with street/snack foods. If you are not familiar with tamarind, imagine the most sour thing you have ever eaten, and then multiply that times 10000. Tamarind originated in Africa, but was quickly brought to India thousands of years ago and became an integral part of the food and culture there. In the 16th century it was also brought to Mexico, which is why you will also see it in being used in Mexican food. By itself, tamarind is almost impossible to eat, but when you dilute it with and add it to other flavors, the sour flavor it imparts, is a really distinct flavor. Tamarind is very versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory applications.
This particular chutney is not really for those people who have a light sugar hand. I can understand that philosophy, as I try to apply it in dishes where the difference cannot be noticed, but in this particular chutney, I have literally added the bare minimum amount of sugar necessary to cut through the sour of the tamarind. If you so choose, you can add a little bit at a time and taste as you go for your own peace of mind, but do not be surprised when you reach the same conclusion that I do in terms of ratio.
If you do have problems with sugar, I will be posting in the future a “sugar-less” version of this chutney. A long time ago, I had to go onto a special diet, for health reasons, free of pretty much everything triggering, including dairy, gluten, and sugar (there were many other things also). My mom somehow managed to figure out a way to make this for me still using dates and pear juice (no sugar added) instead of straight sugar. To say I was grateful for the taste of normalcy in an otherwise difficult month for me would be an understatement. I will definitely be sharing that recipe with you, but I will need to wait for my mom to show me how she did it first. Regardless, here is the recipe for the “original” version of Imli Chutney, an adaptation of what I figured out for myself after watching my mom make it 1000 times growing up.
First off, you need to start with Tamarind Paste. If you live near a South Asian or East Asian grocery store you will be able to find something like this there, even a Mexican grocery store may have it (not sure, don’t quote me, this is just a suspicion) Otherwise you can easily find a version like this on amazon here: Tamarind Seedless Paste. Now keep in mind, that even though it clearly says on there “seedless” you have to read it as if the person writing it does not understand english well. They are not saying there are no seeds. They are saying there are less seeds. If you go in expecting some seeds, you will not be disappointed.
I separated about a cups worth of tamarind from the brick. It was about a third of the whole package. And as you can see there are already some seeds.
Try to squish through as much as you can and remove the seeds that you can see. It’s not absolutely necessary to do this ahead of time, but it will make your life a little bit easier later on. And anything to make life easier in the long run is a win for me =).
Now as you can see I removed quite a bit of seeds from the “seedless” paste. There will still be a lot of pulp strands that you were not trying to remove and you will probably miss seeds that you didn’t even know existed (like I did) but we will find them later. For now, this is good.
Once your paste has been “prepared”, put it into a pot with cold water in it. Put it onto the stove on “high” and boil for 10 minutes, while breaking up the clumps with a spoon to help them dissolve into the water. (I forgot to take a picture of it on the stove) but after the 10 minutes and once its no longer a chunk in water, add the sugar, salt, indian chili powder, dhaniya (coriander) powder, and chaat masala. Boil for another 25 min while reducing the heat to medium. See my Dhaniya (Coriander) Chutney post to learn more about Chaat Masala. But if you do not have access to a South Asian Grocery Store, here is where you can buy my favorite brand: MDH Chunky Chat Masala.
Once everything has boiled for 25-30 minutes, set up a bowl and strainer/sieve near your pot. Taste the chutney and make sure the taste is right. If it is too sour, add more sugar. If it doesn’t have any kick at all, you may want to add a little bit more chili powder. If you can’t pinpoint whats missing, add some more salt or chaat masala, taste again, and adjust if needed. Also check for thickness, you can continue to cook the chutney down more if it seems too thin for you.
Once you have decided the taste and consistency is good, pour the chutney into the strainer a little bit at a time.
Use a spoon to push the chutney through the strainer. And scrape off the thicker chutney that stays attached to the bottom of the strainer into the bowl (You don’t want to waste that).
Make sure to push through everything that you can. You should only have the pulp, and a couple of seeds that you may have missed (like I did) behind. After that your chutney can be served warm/room temperature, or you can put it in the fridge to cool and serve cold.
I hope you give this recipe a try for yourself! Please be sure to let me know in the comments if you do! I would love to hear what you thought of it! Be sure to subscribe so that you can be notified when I post new recipes! (link in the sidebar). Follow me on Instagram @saltyoversweet and find me on Facebook (the link is in the sidebar). Next I will be sharing the recipe for the Kala Chana (black chickpeas) that we eat with samosas and in chaat. =)
- 1 cup -"Seedless" Tamarind Paste - 125g (It was around 1/3 of my brick)
- 3 cups - Water
- 1 1/2 cups - Cane Sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon - Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon - Indian Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon - Dhaniya (coriander) powder
- 1 teaspoon - Chaat Masala
- Put measured Tamarind Paste into a bowl and squish through it with spoon to expose any seeds that may be present. Remove the seeds.
- Put tamarind paste that should now have little to no seeds into a medium pot with the water, and place onto the stove on high, bring to a boil.
- Boil tamarind paste in water for 10 minutes, using a spoon to occasionally squish the tamarind paste against the wall to help it dissolve into the water.
- After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium, and add the sugar, salt, indian chili powder, dhaniya(coriander) powder, and chaat masala. Mix it in, and boil for an additional 25-30 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally.
- Taste the chutney, adjust spices accordingly, particularly make sure that it does not taste too sour. Also check for consistency. If it is too thin, keep cooking until it reaches desired thickness.
- Once the desired taste and consistency has been reached, pour the chutney little by little into a strainer/sieve that is placed over a large bowl.
- Use a spoon to smush the chutney into the strainer and push out as much chutney as possible into the bowl. Be sure to scrape the thick chutney off of the underside of the strainer into the bowl. In the end, you should only be left with some pulp and maybe some seeds if you missed them in the beginning.
- Either you can serve this immediately while it is still warm, or put it into the fridge and serve cold. =)
- *Seedless tamarind paste, does not mean there are no seeds. It means there are less seeds.
- *This recipe is inherently vegan and gluten free
- *This chutney stores really nicely in the freezer, you can keep a container there, and let it thaw in the fridge overnight whenever you know you will need it.
- *Serve this chutney with anything from Samosa's to Bhel Puri to Dhahi Vada. Keep it handy to enjoy with any Indian snack/appetizer food. =)
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