Potato Curry with Tamarind

A Latin specialty! Beneath the hard outer shell is a sticky pulp that is both sweet and sour. These can be eaten raw, used to make a flavorful tea, or made into a syrup and used in chutneys, curries,sauces etc.

To prepare for use in recipes: Remove hard shell. In a bowl soak in water for 10 minutes. Rub tamarind to dissolve in water. Filter through a sieve and sqeeze solids. Discard solids.

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3 dried de arbol chiles (about 3″ long), stems removed
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 lb medium boiling potatoes, scrubbed well
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3/4 tsp. panch phoron (Bengali spice mix)
1/8 tsp. asafetida powder
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup water plus 1/4 cup boiling water
1-1/2 tsp. tamarind concentrate
1/2 tsp. salt


Toast the chiles and cumin seeds in a dry small heavy skillet, shaking the pan occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant and just a shade darker, about 1 minute. Remove the ingredients from the heat and cool the mixture, then finely grind in a grinder.

Cover potatoes with salted cold water by 1″ in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small sharp knife, about 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes and once they are cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes with a small sharp knife or a vegetable peeler and cut into 1″ pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then add the bay leaves, the panch phoron and the asafetida. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the seeds from the panch phoron stop sputtering, about 1 minute, then add the potatoes and turmeric. Saute, stirring, until the potatoes are pale golden brown, about 3-5 minutes, then add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, then simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

While the potatoes are simmering, whisk together the boiling water and tamarind. Add the salt, 2 tsp. of the spice mixture, and tamarind mixture to the potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, November 2005, adapted from Chitrita Banerji.