It isn’t that often that I find ingredients at my regular market haunts that I haven’t seen before, or have written about, for that matter. You tend to fall into a comfortable routine, like hitting favorite seafood vendors, buying my sea salt from Manang X, and purchasing ripe saba bananas in the fruit section whenever I visit the Nasugbu town market. But last weekend, I spotted some brown stuff inside a plastic bag and realized it was a huge clump of ripe and peeled tamarind fruit. Sampalok candies were my all-time favorite childhood sweet, along with my favorite champoy or kiamoy as my savory snack. I LOVE SAMPALOK candies and still do to this day, though I have to admit I eat a lot less of them due to the apparent amounts of sugar they possess. I almost always take a little packet of sampalok and champoy with me on long plane trips, I find the sharp flavors and sugar/salt are good quick pick me ups. At any rate, I had NEVER really made or thought to make them from scratch. It just seemed so much easier to buy them for such reasonable sums of money.
Without a clue what to do with the sampalok, and perhaps invisibly guided by a reader comment requesting a recipe for tamarind jam a few days ago, and bizarrely, comments left by sister on the blog (about our grandmother making a mean sampalok jam) at the same time I was at the market shopping, I think the planets aligned to guide me to the pile of ripe tamarind. At PHP30 a kilo, I thought it was a supreme steal, and bought 2 kilos on the spot. The lady selling them said they were supplied by a lady up in “the bukid” or mountains nearby. She had picked them, peeled them and walked them several kilometers down to the main road and eventually to the market. Egads, had I met the supplier, I would have paid her double for all her trouble. I can’t imagine what kind of patience and lack of any other thing to do is required to sit down and peel hundreds of these tamarind pods.
Previous posts on sampaloc: