Sunday, April 21, 2013

Asam Jawa

Asam Jawa ( Tamarind )  is the Tamarindus indica.  Despite its name, it was not originated from Jawa or India.  It is a leguminous tree indigenous to the tropical Africa.  It reached South Asia most likely prior to the Common Era.  Today, it is widely distributed throughout Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Southern China,  Northern Australia and even Central America.

In South East Asia, it has became an important ingredient in Malay and Indian cuisine.

The acidic pulp of ripe fruit is used in cooking various type of curry ( kari ), most fish dishes ( ikan masak asam, ikan masam manis, ikan masam pedas ),  etc.  It is said that Asam Jawa is capable to reduce the fishy smell of fish.  The pulps are easily found in hypermarkets, supermarkets or wet markets, usually sold in packages with or without the seeds.

The sweet variety is eaten fresh, or made into juice.   Fresh Asam Jawa can be easily found in markets and roadside stalls in Terengganu, Kelantan and Thailand.

As a child, we had candied Asam Jawa as snack.  The pulp was coated in fine sugar and wrapped individually in transparent plastic sheets.  It has been a while since I see the snack being sold in stalls or grocery stores.  

According to my colleague of Indian descendent, as a child he learned to count with the aid of the seeds of Asam Jawa ( In Tamil, it is called puli ).



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