Make Ahead

Tamarind, Lime and Cilantro Sauce

August 23, 2010
0 Ratings
Photo by AntoniaJames
  • Serves about 1 cup
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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)
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lenora Gray
    Lenora Gray
  • aargersi
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • AntoniaJames

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

9 Reviews

Lenora G. August 21, 2017
Would this be a good sauce for a pad thai recipe?
AntoniaJames August 22, 2017
Lenora, I don't think it would be that great. Pad thai is expected to be sort of sweet, and this definitely is not that. I just don't think the flavors would work very well. That said, you should consider trying it with a protein (tofu that's first been baked, or chicken or fish or shrimp) to get a sense of the flavors, and then make up your mind. It helps to cook the sauce down a bit to meld the flavor, so do that before you add quick cooking ingredients. You could even reserve some of the sauce to do a small test run. ;o)
aargersi August 30, 2010
Smoked halibut cheekes with tamarind lime and cilantro sauce, served poolside with an ice cold beer. Heaven. Thanks for a great recipe AJ!!!
AntoniaJames August 30, 2010
So glad you all enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian August 29, 2010
This really looks delicious! I love tamarind and did a tamarind glaze for turkey at Thanksgiving a few years ago. Everyone really loved it, but I really want to try yours now - looks like such a great recipe!
AntoniaJames August 30, 2010
I hope you do!! You can tinker with the proportions, to add more lime, or less, or more garlic, etc. . . . . as I know you will, anyway. Also, you can add whatever kind of chili peppers you like to taste, if you enjoy heat. ;o)
AntoniaJames August 28, 2010
Please note, everyone . . . I just learned (from aargersi, many thanks) that the rice wine referred to in the instructions is not included in the ingrdient list. You should use 1/4 cup of rice wine or white wine. Sorry for any inconvenience. ;o)
aargersi August 25, 2010
I keep coming back to this recipe - it sounds so delicious! I will see if I can find the tamarind paste this weekend and try it -- I am thinking grilled halibut on Sunday ... we have an Indian market up the way, they should have it right??
AntoniaJames August 25, 2010
They should have it, but many independent produce markets (at least those around here) that stock a good array of Asian grocery ingredients also sell the stuff. Ask if you don't see it. If you can't find any, send me a message privately and I'll send you a block! A pound will last quite a long time. And yes, grilled halibut would be delicious this way!! ;o)