Yep, more food

Today's lesson: A taste of tamarind

Pam Freir Times Colonist Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Good morning class. Today we'll be learning about tamarinds. How many of you know what a tamarind is? My, even less than I thought. How many of you want to know what a tamarind is? Too bad. Never mind, this won't take long.

Tamarinds are the fruit of a tree. What kind of tree do you think tamarinds grow on, Justin? No idea? Anybody -- what kind of tree do tamarinds grow on? Well, actually, they grow on tamarind trees, and tamarind trees grow in tropical countries.

Can somebody name a tropical country where tamarind trees might grow? This is an easy one. No Britney, tamarind trees do not grow in Alberta. But if Alberta were a country, and if it were tropical, you would likely find tamarind trees growing there. The reason is that a whole lot of people like tamarinds because they taste so good.

Can somebody tell me what they think a tamarind tastes . . . oh, forget it. I sat up till midnight prepping this lesson and you're getting it whether you want it or not. If any one of you emerges from prepubertal torpor for long enough to ask a question or add something to our tiny store of knowledge concerning tamarinds, raise your right and I will respond.

So. The fruit of the tamarind tree is a pod something like a broad bean pod, but it's brown and fat and not as long, with four or five big round seeds in it. At first sight you might say it's a large caterpillar that has just swallowed a number of filberts in quick succession.

The tasty part inside this ridiculous- looking pod is not the nuts. It's the pulp that surrounds the nuts. It has a sweet- sour flavour and is used for making sauces, especially for oriental food like Indian, Chinese and Thai. In fact, every year in Thailand there is a Tamarind Festival where we could go on a field trip. You could sample tamarind drinks and tamarind candy as we stroll through the market place, and while you were doing that I would hop a pedicab and start a new life as a bar girl in Bangkok, and consider it a promotion.

Is something wrong Vijay? Why are you waving at me? Oh -- why yes Vijay, thank you Vijay. I did ask. Class, Vijay is sharing with us. Vijay says that when his granny cooks fish vindaloo she puts a lot of tamarind in the sauce. How many of you have ever tasted fish vindaloo? Well, par for the fish course.

But I think many of you have tasted tamarind. Oh yes you have. If you have ever dipped your fries in HP Sauce, then you have tasted tamarind, because there's a lot of tamarind in HP Sauce. It says so on the label.

There's also a lot of proud British tradition in HP Sauce. Do you know what the letters HP stand for? Good try Harry, but Hewlett Packard is not in the bottled sauce business. They stand for Houses of Parliament, the British Houses of Parliament, and the HP Sauce Company says that HP Sauce has been served in the lunch room there since 1903. Hands up anyone who believes that.

Way to go. So now we know three of the things needed to make HP Sauce -- tamarinds, proud British tradition, and a dubious claim.

It's almost time for the bell, but we have time for one more fun fact about HP Sauce, for the sports lovers in the class. HP Sauce has recently become the official sponsor of the brown ball in professional snooker tournaments.

So, I want you to think about that, and next time perhaps we can have even more fun learning about snooker.

Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005