In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Sweet Spicy Sour Tambran Balls.


trinidad tambran balls

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!

You’ll Need…

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.

trinidad tambran balls (2)

trinidad tambran balls (3)

trinidad tambran balls (4)

trinidad tambran balls (5)

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.

trinidad tambran balls (6)

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.

trinidad tambran balls (7)

trinidad tambran balls (8)

trinidad tambran balls (9)

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.

trinidad tambran balls

Remember, though this is basically a sugar rush waiting to happen, it will be spicy from the raw garlic and scotch bonnet peppers.

Before you go I invite you to leave me your comments below.. even if it just to say hello. Itโ€™s always appreciated. And donโ€™t forget to join us on facebook and do check out the cooking videos.

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32 Comments

  1. Esseline
    July 13, 2020 / 9:42 am

    Love it Chef Chris.

  2. Sharon Conser
    March 9, 2018 / 9:22 am

    Chris, I appreciate you sharing your recipe for tambran Sweet Spicey Candy. I LOVE Cucharota Mexican Candy on a spoon but making your recipe as small balls will be perfect for a little snack in the afternoon for Tia! Thank you so-o-o much! Sincerely, Sharon – Vancouver, Washington; March 9, 2018

  3. Sharon Conser
    March 9, 2018 / 9:18 am

    Thank you for sharing your recipe, I can’t wait to make these soon as I LOVE Tamarindo Cucharota AND now I can make it myself!

  4. Manuela Valentine-Parris
    May 3, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    Chris..I didn’t realize that Tambran Ball was so easy to make. Now that you have dispel my thought of difficulty, I am anxiously ready to try your recipe. Thank you!

  5. Mary Rollins
    February 26, 2015 / 5:48 pm

    Just looking at the pictures made my mouth water

    • Phil Dunkerly
      December 12, 2017 / 10:50 am

      So glad I’m not alone with this. I can feel the pull on my salivary glands as much as I can feel the pull of memories of great school days in Ja.

  6. Clotelle
    June 23, 2014 / 6:29 pm

    This was always my most favourite snack at school. Even now when I see them I almost always have to have at least one of them. I have to try it with the garlic

  7. Patricia Davis
    February 20, 2014 / 6:19 pm

    Hi I would like for you to make some neaseberry sauce and drink surprise you would be the first person to come up with that sauce and drink we have no such berry in New York, or you can make it and post the recipe on this site thank you peace and blessing. Pat

  8. Leela
    September 18, 2013 / 7:20 pm

    Deciding if I should save up the seeds to make a bean bag..lol

  9. Leela
    September 18, 2013 / 7:18 pm

    Just made these. Yum. I added grind shadow benny to mine and matouks flambeau pepper sauce, rolled them in brown sugar. Delicious. Thanks for the recipe

    • anne marie
      November 10, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      add a pinch of salt. It covers up some of the acid taste

  10. anne marie
    June 15, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    Your recipes are so easy to follow and the pics show us how the food should look. So, if ent look so, we know for sure that instructions were not followed to a T.Thanks Chris.

  11. Scarlet
    June 13, 2013 / 10:01 am

    Thank you for this recipe. There was a recipe I saw that said to add flour, I do not agree that flour should be added.

  12. abi
    May 25, 2013 / 8:00 am

    Love love love these as a child growing up in the Caribbean Jamaica to be precise lol! I will definitely try this recipe thank you for making it available ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Marcel
    April 24, 2013 / 2:27 pm

    It is great to have a place to go to as a point of reference when you need a little home style food. I felt like eating some phlourie and needed the recipe. When I found it, I went to town. I also found sugar cake, marble cake. Yes! I do have a bit of a sweet tooth. In addition, to roti and some other foods. Thanks Chris. I also enjoy wit and hearing some of the homeland curse words. Keep on keeping on.

  14. Vilorn
    March 27, 2013 / 6:03 pm

    OMG I have been searching all day for all the trinidadian dishes I was not taught to make. I am glad I ran across this one. I sooooooo loved tamarind balls and still do, but the one in the korean stores are so hard and pale in comparison.

  15. Janelle
    March 5, 2013 / 6:25 pm

    Allyuh can't do this to meh, whey in England mi gonna find Tambran? Meh friend not coming up from Trini till June. Chris youh is a real tease nah man.

    • anne marie
      June 15, 2013 / 3:06 pm

      June is here! I hope that you asked your friend to bring up the tamarind balls

  16. SheriGK
    February 16, 2013 / 12:13 pm

    Just made them, they turned out great!

  17. Irene Hudson
    December 1, 2012 / 12:20 pm

    My mouth always running when I see trambran I only need to hear the name and mah mouth running like a tap…ah go make it for the grandchildren when they come round…Thanks Chris

  18. Sue
    August 13, 2012 / 7:36 pm

    Hello great way of talking about tamrind since i remember it almost the same way.

  19. Nigel
    March 20, 2012 / 12:45 am

    Chris this one looks wild, here in Dominica we don't put pepper. Keep it up!

    • anne marie
      June 15, 2013 / 3:02 pm

      Yea? No pepper? You are surely missing out . Try it. It is the ultimate flavour

    • anne marie
      June 15, 2013 / 3:14 pm

      You need to come to Trinidad boy. Here , everything goes with pepper . Some times , ketchup too.

  20. sandra
    September 6, 2011 / 12:09 pm

    Mouth watering just reading this.

  21. indrani abdool
    July 21, 2011 / 12:41 pm

    Oh God I can't believe my mouth is watering. Yummy.

  22. Oldst Owns
    July 18, 2011 / 7:03 pm

    My favorite

  23. elaine
    July 13, 2011 / 1:56 pm

    We don't put pepper in them in SVG but I buy them in T&T and I love the taste of the pepper in them but I always thought that it was black pepper now I know bettter……Thanks Chris

  24. Nesha
    July 6, 2011 / 6:35 pm

    Drooling over here… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Antonette Simpson
      July 7, 2011 / 7:40 am

      Thanks for the recipe as I always wondered how to get them done.

    • anne marie
      June 15, 2013 / 3:00 pm

      Yep! Drooling for sure. I think that I would go and make some tomorrow.

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