Why: Because it's so awesome! And seriously tart. And addictive.
Ok seriously, what and why? Tamarind is actually a tree that grows in tropical climates (India (South Asia), Thailand, Latin America) and the fruit itself matures in a pod, which actually doesn't open up naturally. So the extraction is done manually and when the pod is ripe, the result is a pulpy, very tart and sticky substance that's used in many cultures across the world, to bring that peculiar sour and tart kick to their foods. It's seriously addicting, but hard to insanely hard to consume in its natural state. Do I see a new dare going viral on YouTube ?!
Tamarind is especially popular in Indian cooking, especially from the southern region, and I grew up eating candied Tamarind after meals due to its digestive properties, which is really addicting in that particular form. It's rarely used in American cooking, and I thought it would be interesting to fuse some Tamarind, in a sweet and spicy sauce, and immediately the thought of spring rolls came to mind.
"Ugh...spring rolls!" – No one ever.
Do you know someone who actually doesn't like crunchy, meat-filled, sweet and spicy rolls of heaven that are then dipped in more sweet and spicy stuff? Well send them this way. I'm going to do my best to change their minds today.
These rolls are so crunchy and crispy, and the filling is slightly sweet and a just a bit spicy, with notes of ginger and cilantro. Dip one in the Tamarind & Chili Garlic sauce and experience a whole new way to eat them.
Sweet & Spicy Spring Rolls with Tamarind & Chili Garlic Sauce
Makes 8 rolls.
Spring Roll filling ingredients
1 lb. boneless Chicken thighs (washed and dried, then chopped roughly)
3" piece of fresh Ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
3-4 cloves of Garlic (peeled)
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tbsp fish Sauce
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro (washed)
Tamarind & Chili Garlic Sauce
1/2 tbsp Tamarind paste
1 tbsp Chili Garlic Sauce
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
3 tbsp good quality tomato ketchup
8 spring roll wrapping sheets
1 cup high heat oil for frying (I used Grapeseed oil)
EASY DISH ALERT: Brace yourself, this is going to be painfully easy.
Place all ingredients of the filling into a food processor and run for about 2 minutes till everything is incorporated into a giant mush. Let it marinade for a bit for around 15 minutes
And what it looks like after the run:
Combine everything from the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Add more ketchup or Soy sauce if needed. It should taste sweet and spicy with a hint of tart Tamarind.
Wrap 2 tbsp of filling into each spring roll wrapper. Make 8 rolls, each about 3 to 4 inches long.
Tip: As you fold make sure you're wrapping and rolling them tight and firm.
DISCLAIMER: This is probably the hardest part of the dish. What the Asian restaurant chefs make look super easy, is actually quite the craft. Here's some help :) Don't sweat it, if your rolls look a bit imperfect, it's a learning process, and as long as you fry them enough, they'll taste amazing! God speed.
Heat 1 cup oil in a small pot on medium high. When the oil is hot enough (dip wooden skewer/chopstick in oil, if it bubbles oil's ready) gently drop two rolls into the hot oil with a pair of tongs or chopsticks. Fry for 2 minutes and then flip and repeat. Remove them when they look really delicious, crunchy and golden brown!
And that's it! You're done. How easy was that guys? And wait till you sink into these crunchy sticks, and the meaty flavors kick in, with the freshness of ginger and the smokiness of the soy sauce. Prettty amazing stuff!
And pretty amazing looking stuff too!
Can you imagine what a great party food this would be? You'll certainly peak their interest with this new ingredient in the dipping sauce, and that's when you drop the fancy exotic fruit knowledge. Mic drop!
And one for the road...
Love and Nomaste!