One of the first personalized bbq sauces I’ve ever made was this tamarind bbq sauce and in the process I learned the foundation of making good tomato based bbq sauces. I have a number of sauces I’m still to share with you as we dig deeper into this culinary tour of the Caribbean, so do stay tuned in. Using a less glamorous fruit from the Caribbean called Tamarind (In trinidad and Tobago we refer to it as tambran) to add a wonderful jolt of true Caribbean vibe to this versatile bbq sauce (can be used as a dipping sauce as well), the final taste will surely excite your taste buds.
One of my first memories of tamarind is sucking back on a piece fresh off the tree and that wicked punch of sour where your taste buds go into immediate shock… thinking about it brings my mouth gushing with water from that memory. Those of you in North America.. it’s similar to the sour candy you enjoyed as a kid… the ones your friends would dare you to place in your mouth and not open it.
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cider vinegar
1 large onion diced (I used a sweet onion)
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoon yellow mustard (commercial stuff is fine)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3/4 cup tamarind pulp (see note below)
Notes: You’ll need between a cup and a cup and half of hot water to prepare the tamarind pulp into a liquid form. You can certainly add some cinnamon and fresh herbs to personalize this Tamarind BBQ Sauce if you like. When using the scotch bonnet pepper try to wear gloves as the oils can be painful on your bare skin and try not to use the seeds, since that’s where a lot of the heat is.
The first thing we need to do is dice the onion and pepper very small.. remember to not use the seeds of the pepper if you’re concerned about explosive heat. Put the tamarind paste into a bowl and top it with hot water (I used just over a cup of boiling water). The hot water will allow us to break the tamarind down into a concentrated liquid form.
In a deep sauce pan on medium heat, pour in the olive oil (to help cook the onions and it will also give the finished tamarind bbq sauce a brilliant sheen), then empty in the diced onion. Turn your heat down to low and let this slowly cook for 5 minutes (remember to stir). It will soften up, go translucent and release it’s natural sugars.
After 5 minuets it’s time to add the black pepper and allspice.. this step will help toast the spices a bit and release it’s flavors. Cook that for a minute or two, then start adding everything else into the pot (see video below).. except the tamarind. Raise your heat to medium to bring to a gentle boil (remember to keep stirring). As this comes to a boil, the water with the tamarind pulp should be cool enough for you to handle.
Using a fork (at first), break up the tamarind pulp, then get in with your fingers and massage it. This action will release the pulp and the water will become a sort of tamarind concentrate. Discard as much solid (seeds and fibers) as you can. Now strain the liquid into the pot and give it a good stir.
Turn the heat back up so you get this back to boiling, then turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer. The idea is to cook this very slowly so all the flavors marry and form a tasty tamarind bbq sauce. Typically after 30 minutes it will be finished, but I allowed my batch to go for 45 minutes to really thicken up. You can leave it for additional time if you want a more thick bbq sauce. Do remember that when the sauce cools it will also thicken up quite a bit.
Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing you made your own BBQ sauce, you’ll now have the most tasty tamarind bbq sauce you’ll ever enjoy. This sauce is not only meant for grilling, it makes a wicked dipping sauce for your chicken fingers and is a great topping for burgers. Store in glass containers in the fridge and it will remain good for at least a couple months (it won’t last.. you’ll find uses for it before then)