When I have a Saturday off work, we like to go to the Hot Box food truck that parks in front of the brewery on Dale’s street. Last week I got a Jarritos tamarind soda to go with my risotto fritters, and he commented that he couldn’t detect a flavor he could call tamarind, because all he tasted was sweet. So, since I spent enough time in the tropics to learn to love the tart flavor of tamarind, I decided to do something about that.
Tamarind is the seed pod of a tree originating in Africa and now found in tropical climates throughout the world. I used the straight fruit pulp, found in the frozen section of large supermarkets and Latin-American markets (Goya Fruta was the brand I used). It has a very tart flavor, which is why I balanced it with the big flavors of garlic and ginger, the heat of sriracha, and the sweetness of honey. I like it still pretty tart; you may prefer to add more of the other ingredients to tone it down.
Spicy Tamarind Ginger Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs)
3/4 c. tamarind pulp (thaw before measuring–it will be pouring consistency)
1/4 c. soy sauce (can substitute tamari if you have gluten issues, or rice vinegar plus a little extra salt if you are allergic to soy)
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. sriracha (Huy Fong Foods, the manufacturer of the original, says it’s gluten free, but there are dedicated gluten free versions out there)
1-inch slice of fresh ginger, finely grated
1-2 Tbsp. honey, to taste
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Cornstarch for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
Green onions, sliced, for garnish
Cut the chicken breasts into chunks, a little smaller than an inch, and coat with cornstarch. Pour about 1/4-1/2 inch of oil in the bottom of a large skillet and fry the chicken pieces until light golden brown–I had to do mine in 2 batches to keep from crowding the pan. Remove cooked chicken from the pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel, to drain the excess oil.
Once you’ve got all your chicken fried and drained, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and give a quick stir to make your sauce. Clean the pan (or get out a new one, if you’re slack) and return the chicken to it, pouring the sauce over the top and stirring to coat. Heat it through; your sauce will thicken a bit as it heats up. Serve over rice, garnished with green onions.