Make Ahead

Tamarind, Lime and Cilantro Sauce

August 23, 2010
Photo by AntoniaJames
Author Notes

I adapted Dana Jacobi's Indonesian Beggar’s Chicken, from her “Clay Pot Cooking,” to create this versatile stove-top sauce. We use this a lot. In fact, I usually make a quadruple batch (why not? It takes only a few more minutes.) so I have plenty to freeze for later use. The sauce goes well with any grilled, fried, broiled or roasted fish, pork or chicken, and it's a knock-out addition to braised tofu. Make this sauce as hot as you like, or not all, by adding (or not) whatever chilies or hot sauce suit your taste. However you use this . . . . I do hope you enjoy it. ;o) —AntoniaJames

  • Serves about 1 cup
  • 1 one-inch cube of solid, seeded tamarind pulp (also referred to as "tamarind paste")
  • Large handful of cilantro, including stems
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, or more to taste, peeled
  • 2 anchovy fillets, mashed, or an equivalent amount of paste
  • 2 or 3 medium shallots
  • 2 tablespoons naturally fermented soy sauce (one with a rich taste, and not too salty)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 or 2 chilies, of whatever kind you prefer, seeded (or not, as you like)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola or other neutral vegetable oil
In This Recipe
  1. Put the cilantro, garlic, tamarind, soy sauce, onion, shallots, anchovies or anchovy paste, and the juice of half of one lime into your food processor. Pull the tamarind apart into small pieces before putting into the food processor, to make sure there are no hard seeds in it. Add the chili or chilies, if using.
  2. Process for about ten seconds, scrape down, process again, scrape down and, if necessary, process a third time. You want the pieces to be small and the mixture well combined, but you do not want a puree.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a small, heavy saucepan with a lid. Before it starts to smoke, add the onion, cilantro and tamarind mixture and stir well. Simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the lid on and set aside. It will hold, unrefrigerated, for a few hours. Or, at this point, you can put it in a covered container into the refrigerator. It will hold for a few days there.
  4. Shortly before serving, bring the sauce to a good simmer over medium heat. Add the rice wine and cook for a minute or two. (If your method of cooking the fish, chicken or meat with which you are using this allows you to collect pan juices, by all means, do so. Strain and add them to the sauce at this point.)
  5. Taste the sauce and add more lime juice -- or a pinch of sugar if the sauce seems too tart -- and more salt, if necessary, to taste.
  6. Enjoy!!
  7. N.B.: TO MAKE A TAMARIND GLAZE: Soften a one-inch cube of tamarind paste in a small bowl with about two tablespoons of very hot water. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for at least ten minutes. Press the tamarind pulp through a fine strainer. Add the juice of half a lime and a teaspoon of natural soy sauce. Stir well and use to glaze fish, chicken or meat, toward the end of the cooking process. ;o)
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  • Lenora Gray
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  • AntoniaJames

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)