I love tamarind. In Panama we make a drink with it, but this isn’t exclusive to my little country, of course. We also process the pulp, mix it with brown sugar and make it into balls that are then dipped in sugar and sold. It's an incredibly good snack; just thinking about it is making my mouth water.
Speaking of tamarind balls… when I moved to Houston, I had probably been there for a little over a year, I was yearning for Panamanian treats. I used to go to a little store called La Michoacana, it was (is) a primarily Mexican store, but it was the only place I could find ‘some’ of the products and produce I needed for home cooking.
On one of my visits to the store, I noticed they were selling tamarind balls. Oh joy!!! I was so excited. A little piece of home… or so I thought. I got back in my car, heading home after picking up all the essentials, unwrapped the little ball and took a nice, healthy bite of it… I almost threw up! They like the tamarind balls in Mexico too, but like many of their treats, they add chili peppers to it. That totally ruined it for me -- just be happy you weren’t in the car with me that day! I sounded like a sailor.
In any case, I’ve had some tamarind pulp sitting in the pantry for a few weeks now, planning to get to it. The wait is over. I decided to cook with it, instead of limiting it to sweeter applications. These pork spareribs turned out finger-licking OHMYGAWD good! I recommend you plan ahead for these so you can marinate the ribs as I did.
You will want to prep for this recipe. The day before, dilute the tamarind paste in water. I used about 1/2 cup of the pulp and diluted it in about 3 cups of hot water. Let it sit there for a bit to help the pulp separate from the seeds. Once the water has cooled, strain it and use a spoon to help remove more of the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds and reserve the concentrated juice.
In a bowl or large resealable bag combine:
1cup tamarind concentrate
2teaspoons sea salt
1teaspoon black pepper
1teaspoon habanero paste (or habanero hot sauce)
2teaspoons curry powder
3tablespoons fresh ginger slivered
2teaspoons garlic paste (crushed garlic)
For the Tamarind Glaze
2cups tamarind concentrate (whatever is left, plus some water)
1tablespoon fresh ginger crushed
1/3cup brown sugar
2cloves garlic crushed (garlic paste)
1teaspoon curry powder
1/4cup green onions diced (green parts and white parts)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with foil paper and lay out the ribs in a single layer. Make sure to remove any chunks of ginger you see. Cover with foil and bake the ribs for 1½ hours.
In the meantime, prepare the glaze. Once the ribs have cooked for the first 90 minutes, remove from the oven and drain and reserve the liquid. Return them to the oven uncovered.
Heat a medium saucepan, add a bit of oil to coat the bottom, then add all the white pieces of the green onions and half of the greens. Allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes, just long enough to soften, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt.
Stir well and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Allow it to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring every so often until it begins to thicken. Once the glaze thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, add the rest of the green onions and remove it from the heat. Set aside.
After the ribs have cooked through and begin to get tender (about 90 minutes), raise the oven’s temperature to 450°F and generously brush the ribs with the glaze on one side. Return them to the oven and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Flip the ribs, glaze the other side and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Finally remove them from the oven, flip and glaze them once more, but just let them sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.