Tamarind Spiced Corn

This recipe is adapted from a favorite cookbook author, Neelam Batra (1000 Indian Recipes).  You’ll find fenugreek seeds (a mustard-colored, flat and squarish whole Indian spice, pictured at right-center in the photo below) at Whole Foods or other high-quality markets, but you’ll probably need to head to an Indian grocery for jarred tamarind paste (also called tamarind concentrate).  If you live in the San Francisco Bay area you shouldn’t have any trouble locating one nearby, and the trip is well worth taking for inexpensive bulk spices, tea and unusual produce as well.

Tamarind paste is produced from the sour pulp of fruit pods from the tamarind tree, and is a popular flavoring in India, Mexico, the Middle East, and other parts of the world—in both savory and sweet preparations.  In this dish, tamarind’s tang complements the sweetness of the crunchy corn and red bell peppers.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 ears of fresh corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste, or to taste (see headnotes and photo above)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and soft stems

Method:

  1. Dry-roast cumin, fenugreek and red pepper in a small skillet over medium heat until seeds are fragrant and have turned a few shades darker in color.  Stir spices and shake pan frequently to prevent burning.  Grind spices as finely as possible, in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Cut corn kernels off the cobs.
  3. Warm oil in a large skillet.  Add onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add corn and roasted spices to the pan, and about one-half teaspoon salt.  Cook corn for about five minutes until it turns golden.
  4. Add tamarind paste and one tablespoon water.  Stir well to coat the corn kernels.  The paste will liquify as it warms up and combines with the water.  Add the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a serving dish and stir in cilantro.  Taste and add more salt as necessary.
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