Tamarind may not be a common cooking ingredient used here in the U.S. but in Asia, tamarind is widely used in many cuisines especially in India and the South-east Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines and Malaysia. Tamarind is also popular in Africa and Mexico. Among the many dishes that include tamarind as an ingredient are chutneys, curries and even some drinks, desserts and candies. Many of you may not be aware of this but the ever popular Worcestershire sauce contains tamarind as well.
The two parts of the tamarind tree that is of any culinary use is the pulp of the legume-like fruit (see right) and the leaves (used to perfume and flavor soups). Tamarind is known for its tart and sour taste (with a slight hint of sweetness), which is sourced from the ripened fruit and is available commercially in the form of a concentrate or fresh pulp (the seeds are included as well). In both forms, water should be added to obtain the tamarind juice that's commonly used in cooking.
Start off by seasoning the salmon fillet with salt and pepper and place it in a deep casserole dish. For this particular recipe, tamarind juice is added to the casserole, together with sesame oil, fish sauce and ponzu sauce. Ponzu is a Japanese citrus soy sauce and using it here instead of just regular soy sauce adds a little acidity that is just suitable for seafood (in our case, salmon). Usually, when fish sauce is used, soy sauce is not. In Thai cooking, fish sauce is the source of saltiness in dishes, which just negates the use of soy sauce or for that matter, salt. However, here I'm adding ponzu as well just for that extra acidity bite. Cut some ginger slices and arrange them on top of the fish and also in the liquid. I also added some sliced tomatoes and mushrooms to provide extra ingredients to this dish. Now, put the casserole in a steamer pan, close the lid, turn on the heat and let it go for 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked (depending on how thick the fillet is). If you have a thick piece of fish, I suggest you score the meat with a knife so that the middle part of the fish will cook faster. In the meantime, chop up some garlic and sauté until brown. Also, julliene some scallions and soak them in cold water and set aside.
When the fish is cooked, remove the ginger slices, transfer it to a serving dish and pour the yummy liquid over the fish, drenching it with lots of flavor. Now, arrange the tomatoes and mushrooms around the plate and spoon the sautéed garlic over the salmon to provide some crunchy texture. Finally, use the scallions as garnish around the plate and on the salmon itself. And there you have it, a healthy dish of steamed salmon with tamarind and ginger.