Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grilled Chicken with Gingery Tamarind Yogurt Marinade and Fiery Tamarind Barbecue Sauce

I love learning about a place by learning about its food. Seeing similarities to other cuisines but with subtle differences adds to the understanding of a place. In The Food of Oman, of which I received a review copy, I learned about the mix of Bedouin traditional foods and ingredients and flavors brought there by the Indian Ocean trade routes. Those flavors that make up Omani cooking are found in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and East Africa. Many ingredients are used in dried or preserved from like dehydrated coconut milk, dried limes, and salt-cured fish because of the history of needing those foods to last for distant travel both on land and at sea. I’ve used dried lime before, appreciate the concentrated flavor, and couldn’t wait to use it again. There are comfort-food rice dishes that are common for lunch meals in Oman like Arseeya, a savory chicken and rice porridge; Omani Lentil Soup made with dried lime, ghee, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and more; and Sur Vegetable Biryani with layers of spiced vegetables and rice. One of the rice dishes I want to try soon is Mandi Djaj which is a popular take-out dish of turmeric and saffron spiced rice cooked below roasted chicken and spicy, smooth hot sauce on the side. There are also fish dishes, curries, vegetable sides, and breads and savory snacks. The Royal Sticky Date Pudding looks very hard to resist, and Samar’s Date Cake baked in a bundt with date syrup swirled on top is tempting me as well. I enjoyed the stories about foods cooked over live fires at beach parties and at roadside stands. The kebabs in the book all look delicious. But, the Gingery Tamarind Yogurt Marinade and Fiery Tamarind Barbecue Sauce captured my attention first. 

The marinade was to be made with seedless tamarind paste. I found a product from Thailand that is packaged as a softened concentrate ready to use and was able to skip the step listed in the recipe below for softening tamarind in boiling water. The tamarind liquid was whisked into yogurt with cold water, vegetable oil, minced ginger, minced garlic, black lime powder, and salt. I had some black, or dried, limes in my pantry because they last for at least two years. I broke one into pieces and ground the pieces in a spice grinder to make a powder. It smells wonderfully like lime with a little interesting earthiness. The marinade was poured over seasoned chicken pieces, and the chicken was refrigerated and left to marinate for an hour or longer. The author describes the barbecue sauce as addictive, and I was eager to find out if that was true. The sauce was made with more tamarind, minced Thai bird’s eye chiles, garlic, salt, and I used honey rather than sugar. The mixture simmered for several minutes and thickened. I grilled the chicken over wood coals, and basted it at the end of cooking with some of the sauce. 

Indeed, I could see how this sauce could be habit-forming. It’s tangy and spicy and just sweet enough. While the chicken marinated, I also made Mkate Wa Ufuta or Zanzibari Sesame Bread. It’s a delightfully simple dough of all-purpose flour, coconut milk, and an egg. After rising, the dough was divided into pieces, each piece was flattened into a round and cooked in a hot cast iron skillet with sesame seeds added to each side. It was puffy and chewy and a perfect vehicle for scooping up any sauce left on the plate from the chicken. I’m going to enjoy learning more about the country as I eat my way through the book. 

Gingery Tamarind Yogurt Marinade 
Recipes reprinted with publisher’s permission from The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia by Felicia Campbell/Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Makes about 2 cups (enough for 2 to 3 pounds of meat or chicken) 

1/2 cup packed seedless tamarind paste 
3/4 cup boiling water 
1 small (5.3-ounce) container plain Greek yogurt 
1/4 cup cold water 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and mashed into a paste or grated using a Microplane
3 large cloves garlic, mashed into a paste 
1/4 teaspoon black lime powder 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

Break the tamarind paste into pieces and place in a small bowl; pour the boiling water over it and let soften and cool, about 30 minutes. Mash the tamarind by hand in the water to break it up. 

Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the tamarind concentrate into a bowl, a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to firmly mash and press the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible, occasionally scraping the pulp on the underside of the sieve into the bowl. This will take a few minutes. Discard the mashed fibrous pulp in the sieve and set the liquid (about 1/2 cup) aside. 

Whisk together the yogurt, cold water, oil, ginger, garlic, black lime powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir in the tamarind liquid and adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Use as a marinade for chicken or meat, allowing the proteins to marinate at least 1 hour. Shake off any excess marinade before grilling. 

Fiery Tamarind Barbecue Sauce 

Makes about 1 1/2 cups 

1 (400-gram) block seedless tamarind paste 
10 bird’s eye chiles, minced or grated 
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated 
7 tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more 

Break up the block of tamarind into a few pieces and place in a medium saucepan with 3 cups water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring constantly with pressure to break up the tamarind, until the tamarind has softened and the mixture has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the tamarind concentrate over a small saucepan, a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to firmly mash and press the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible, occasionally scraping the pulp on the underside of the sieve into the bowl. This will take several minutes. Discard any mashed fibrous pulp in the sieve. 

Add the chiles, garlic, sugar, and salt to the tamarind liquid and bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover (as it will sputter), decrease the heat to low, and cook 10 to 12 minutes, until thick and darkened. Turn off the heat and let sit 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar to taste, and add a little water to thin the sauce out, if desired. Serve alongside grilled chicken or meat or atop roast meat or vegetables. If the sauce becomes too thick before using, reheat over low heat, adding a little water as needed. 

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  1. Love tamarind, but it can be a bit of a pain to deal with. I've used a softened concentrate, too, and like it. Can't always find it, alas. Anyway, super recipes -- thanks so much.

  2. Hi Lisa, you are so right, you can learn a lot about a place by learning about the food, what a storyteller it is. Love this dish; have never worked with fresh tamarind.

  3. i know nothing about this cuisine, but after reading just one post from you, i'm intrigued! these flavors sound great, and i'm really interested in that bread!

  4. Hi Lisa:)
    I love that you are such an adventurous cook. I've never dealt with tamarind, not that I haven't been tempted but it is a difficult product to find around here in any form.

    I must say, by the looks of this dish I really should try to find it online. I'm sure it just wouldn't be the same without it. Your chicken looks oh so good! Too bad I can't make it. I have fresh yogurt "brewing" as we speak!

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa...

  5. I used to buy tamarind but gave up because I could only find the one with seeds in it. I know buy the paste which is so much easier to use. I love the look of the chicken grilling on the BBQ. Looks wonderful xx

  6. Hi Lisa, dropped by to let you know that I have tried the starry starry night cookies after reading your blog post and review. Awesome cookies and half the cookies flew off the table within a few minutes of baking. Appreciate your work, Lisa. :)

    I love tandoori chicken and this grilled chicken recipe is so very close to how we marinate chicken before baking the chicken in a tandoor.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the cookies!

      Yes, I thought the marinade seemed similar to the style for tandoori chicken.


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