Bajan Recipe : The Art of Tamarind Balls

Black History Month may be over, but I recently had to make a dish for my son’s pre-k to celebrate the diversity of the students in his class. Their were dishes from Grenada, Guyana, Dominican Republic and my contribution was from Barbados (it’s people are known as Bajans), where both my parents were born. My mother is a great cook and made many Bajan dishes when I was young(er) – some I loved, some not so much.

Tamarind balls are a snack that can be found across the Carribean as well as in Thailand and Mexico. The varieties come sweet or sour and can be further seasoned to suit your taste when turned into balls. To be honest I never liked them but I know that kids do tend to like them, especially seeing as they are sprinkled in sugar. I also liked the idea that this is a no-bake recipe.

Most of the recipes online used Tamarind Paste. Not only did I not see any at the shops, but I wanted to make tamarind balls completely from scratch. Well, never again! Opening 1lb of tamarind pods and taking out the seeds took over 1 hour to create a small amount of tamarind balls. Our family is unique in that I am from Canada, my husband from New Zealand, my son born in New Zealand and my daughter born here in the US. So, I like to take up opportunities to fully explore these various cultures.

Look out for Tamarind in specialty Carribean or Mexican shops. You can decide which variety you’d prefer if both are on offer. A quick survey at my son’s event of people who actually grew up in the islands tells me that sweet tamarind is the preference.

Prepping the Tamarind

The shell cracks easily, to uncover the fleshy tamarind. You can see the seeds right under the skin of the tamarind. You’ll also need to pull away the roots from the tamarind. This was the easy part.

The next step is taking the tamarind seeds out. I googled this and couldn’t find a good anything about how to do this. So, I learnt a few things along the way. The best method I found was to run a knife along the skin of the tamarind. You feel that you are cutting through and can see the shiny seeds underneath. When you do this just right, the seeds will pop out. You might have to pry some of the seeds out and this is when it gets tricky. Too much manipulation of the tamarind makes it heat up, get mushy and stickier, making it hard to separate it from the seeds. I ended up putting the bowl of tamarind in the freezer and only taking 2 out at a time to remove the seeds. This helped keep the tamarind firm and easier to deal with.

Ingredients and How-To

Now that the tamarind is ready, you can mash it up and season to taste.

What you’ll need

  • 5 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 lb Tamarind pulp, prepared as above
  • 3 tbsp flour

This is the easy part. Add 4 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar in the bowl with the tamarind and mix by hand. Once it is all mixed together, add the flour to help it bind. Taste the tamarind, if it is still too sour, add a little more sugar til you get a sweet and sour taste you like.

At this point, some will add pepper or hot sauce to give it a kick. I didn’t as I was making these for 4 year olds. But if you like spicy, add a teaspoon at a time and taste.

Roll the tamarind into small balls the size of a tablespoon.

Spread the last tablespoon of sugar in a shallow dish. Roll the tamarind in the sugar and your done! Refrigerate until ready to serve. Usually the tamarind is rolled in white sugar for a nice contrast, but I don’t stock that at my house, so brown sugar it was.

Do you have any dishes passed on from your mom or dad to you that you are now introducing to your kids?

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5 Responses to Bajan Recipe : The Art of Tamarind Balls
  1. Isra
    Twitter: thefrugalette
    March 9, 2012 | 5:34 pm

    Ghada! I’m from India and tamarind is HUGE there, this recipe looks amazing, going to show it to my mom, she would love this! Pinning!
    Isra recently posted..Give Me a Broom, I’ll Give You a QuoteMy Profile

  2. Ghada V
    Twitter: OMGhada
    March 9, 2012 | 6:31 pm

    Ohmgeeeee! I forgot to mention India in the recipe. It’s amazing how popular it is in so many different parts of the world. Thanks for pinning :)

  3. Kristin Wheeler (MamaLuvsBooks)
    March 9, 2012 | 9:04 pm

    Thanks! Pinning!

  4. Nikki @ MommyFactor
    Twitter: MommyFactor
    March 10, 2012 | 11:30 am

    I’m from Guyana and LOVE Tamarind. it’s been a while since I had some so thank you for the recipe
    Nikki @ MommyFactor recently posted..The Need to See Black Moms BreastfeedingMy Profile

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