The flavor is often described as sour-sweet, akin to a glass of lemonade or an earthy sour candy. In fact, in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, tamarind pulp concentrate acts much like lemon juice does in Western cuisines. It can be used to season already flavorful foods, such as chutneys, curry dishes or pickled fish. In India, the fruit’s leaves can be used to spice up lentils and dals; the fruit works especially well in curries and condiments, too.
But in Mexican cuisines, you’ll find tamarind used in sweetened drinks and desserts. The more time the fruit is given to age, the sweeter it gets, explaining those regional differences.
Tamarind can be eaten straight off the tree, and it’s quite easy to prepare in its pod form. First, gently crack and peel away the hard brown shell, where you’ll find a dark brown pulp and stringy, fibrous veins. Pull those away, and from there, it’s ready to eat. (Though do be careful to avoid seeds.) The pods can be found in the produce section of Asian and Latin markets, or they may be sold as “tamarindo” or “Indian date” in a larger supermarket. Unpeeled pods can be stored at room temperature for up to three months.