So you’re confused if you’re not form the Caribbean, tambran is just the local way of saying tamarind. This was a favorite of mine as a kid in primary school on the islands. Today I still search them out whenever I make a trip back home or when I go shopping at the many Asian stores locally. The only difference with the ones that comes in a small plastic box at the Asian stores is that there’s no real kick to it and they’re really tiny in size. Probably the size of a small marble. But the ones I grew up eating every recess in primary school, where as big as ping pong balls. Back then I think we got 50 cents to buy treats at recess and lunch break and most of my money went to the vendor with the preserved fruits and tambran balls just outside the school compound. It was a tough choice to make when there were “penna cool” (freezies) on sale and the days were hot and sticky. The tough choices we had to make on our own as kids!
200 grams of tamarind (see note below) – a little less than 8 ozs
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (or any hot pepper you like)
2 cups golden brown sugar
3 tablespoon white sugar (granulated)
2 cloves garlic
Note: Usually the tamarind (tanbran) we get in the Caribbean are a lot bigger in length and thickness than the packaged ones I got from the local Asian store. If you want less work, you can always buy the tamarind paste that’s already free of seeds and the hard shell exterior. I left the seeds in my finished tambran balls as I find they hold a lot of flavor and as a kid I like spitting the seeds at the end. But if you do, remember not to sink your teeth into them or you’ll be making a visit to the dentist. or cussing Chris!..
Start by creating the spicy sort of paste we’ll need to give it that kick … to know that we’re eating tambran balls. In a bowl (as in my case) or a mortar and pestle place the hot pepper, garlic and about 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar and pound to smooth paste. I put the little bit of sugar to give it a bit of grit to achieve a smooth paste.
Set this aside and lets get the tambran ready. A s in my case (since I didn’t buy the pulp) remove the outer hard shell and pull the ‘meat’ or pulp out.. try to remove that sort of stringy fibers that may be holding them together. You have two options now, remove the seeds or not. I didn’t as I mentioned in the notes above. Break up the pulp into pieces and add it to the pepper/garlic paste we made.
The next step is to add the brown sugar and give it a good stir, then using your hands start forming the ping pong tennis ball size. If you find that it’s not holding well, add about 1 teaspoon of water to the bowl. Remember you’ll be playing with extremely hot peppers so you may want to wear gloves. If you find that the mixture is too soft/runny and not taking shape, add some more brown sugar. Additionally if the room is hot they may give you a hard time shaping as the heat from your hands and room temp will melt the sugar. Place the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes and try again.
I was in too much of a hurry to eat these so my ball did not shaped well. But I’m sure you’ll do a better job than I did. The final step is to spead the granualted sugar on a plate and roll the tambran balls to give it that extra finishing touch. You can always set them in the fridge to chill a bit and remain in it’s ball like shape.
Remember, though this is basically a sugar rush waiting to happen, it will be spicy from the raw garlic and scotch bonnet peppers.