Of late, our supermarket has stocked quite a wide variety of spice and seasoning blends for all sorts of International dishes. This product is made in the Philippines and is meant to result in a Tamarind soup to which you add your own seafood ingredients. For those unfamiliar, Tamarind is used in many dishes to produce a natural sour flavor… However, in looking at the ingredient list, I saw that, while the product does contain Tamarind powder, it comes fairly low on the list compared to Citric Acid which appears as item number two and is, quite clearly, the chief souring agent in this preparation. Generally, I prefer making things from scratch rather than using processed preparations, but once in a while, I end up buying things just ‘to see what this is like’…
This is the powder and, as you can see, there is nothing remarkable about. I tasted it as is and my first impression was of an umami flavor rather like the artificial beef or chicken flavor in Ramen noodle flavor packets. The ingredients list both MSG and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, so this is obviously what I was tasting. The acidity kicked in less than a second later and this dominated everything else after that. I did detect a faint hint of a fishy flavor and there is, indeed, some shrimp powder in there somewhere.
The packet says to stir the powder into 11 cups of water. I started with just 6 and then increased to eight, which yielded a pretty decent result as far as concentration goes. The powder doesn’t dissolve terribly well and the result is a bit cloudy. However, I skimmed the top as I was heating it and then I poured off the pot into another container leaving a lot of residue behind. The result was much lighter and clearer and suffered no loss of flavor.
I did as the soup packet suggested and made a seafood soup. The seasonings beyond the ‘sour’ flavor are not extensive and it struck me that a little heat might be nice and so I added some fresh chili, but no other spices or herbs.
I began by sautéeing some thinly sliced onion and Jalapeno pepper in oil, and then added shrimp, thinly sliced squid. Once these were sufficiently cooked, I added the soup mix and some clams in their shells. After that, it took only a few minutes to heat everything gently through.
All in all, the result was pretty tasty. The soup mix was cheap and easy to use but, really, the effect could easily be reproduced quite simply (and, I suspect, just as cheaply) even at the expense of substituting the Tamarind with a little vinegar and lime juice.