Adding fruity aromas of tamarind to classic Southeast Asian dressing flavours adds another level of complexity and deliciousness. Tangy, sweet and spicy, this is a dressing recipe you will make all the time.
How To Make Your Own Southeast Asian Salad Dressing
We adore Southeast Asian flavours especially when it comes to salads. And a great deal of that flavour comes from the salad dressing.
The often tangy, spicy and punchy Asian style dressing can uplift the whole meal to something that is unbelievably tasty.
There are some basic principles with Southeast Asian style salad dressings. You need ingredients that will give you a harmonious balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy.
This is generally the common thread in more popular salad dressings from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Ingredients I like to use as my base for Southeast Asian salad dressings include:
>>fish sauce for salt
>>lime or lemon juice for sour
>>palm sugar for sweet
>>fresh chilli or chilli paste for spice
The ratios you use between the different components may vary depending on your taste.
After you have found your balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours, you can layer it with additional herbs, aromates and alliums.
Common additional ingredients include crushed garlic, ginger, shredded kaffir limes, cilantro stems and shallots.
What is Tamarind?
For our Chilli Tamarind dressing, I added tamarind puree in conjunction with the lime juice to create another layer of sour.
Tamarind is a fruit grown on trees and comes in a small curvy pod with a brittle shell that encases a sticky sour pulp.
You don’t often eat the young green pulp as it is too sour for most but can be used in flavouring. It is the mature sweet, tangy pulp that is most commonly used in various cuisines.
Tamarind is native to Africa but also grown in India, Pakistan, South East Asia and the Middle East.
Having grown up with tamarind in my mum’s cooking, I always associated it with South East Asian cooking. I didn’t realise some many other cultures use it in their cooking!
The complex sweet sour taste of the pulp adds delicious punch to soups, sauces, dressing, stir-fries and curries. Like other acidic fruits, tamarind can also help tenderize meat when used in a marinade.
I loved adding the sweet sour and fruity aroma in this chilli tamarind dressing.
Difference Tamarind Paste Vs Tamarind Puree?
You will often find tamarind sold as a tamarind paste or tamarind puree.
Tamarind paste is compressed dried tamarind pods with pulp and seeds. It has a thick consistency and needs to be soaked before using.
To use it in cooking, you will have to separate the pulp from the seeds. You can find more ready to use versions in jars where they have removed most of the seeds.
Tamarind puree is more of a liquid form and less concentrated than pulp. The texture of tamarind puree is more like a dipping sauce.
It can be made by soaking tamarind paste and squeezing the tamarind pulp through a cheesecloth but again you can purchase in jar ready to use at the local Asian grocery store.
There is not much difference between tamarind paste and tamarind puree other than concentration. If you only have tamarind puree and the recipe calls for tamarind paste, I would increase the volume and check for taste.
What I love about this Asian salad dressing is that it is fantastic on other dishes like grilled fish, barbeque chicken, pan fried tofu or even a glass noodle salad. Easily can store in the fridge for a week.
Our family does prefer a little heat in our dishes, so the dressing includes enough chilli but you can adjust the heat as you please.
Chilli Tamarind Dressing Ingredients
Fish sauce: Good fish sauce makes a big difference. Our go to brands are Red Boat Fish Sauce or the Thai Fish Sauce by the Squid Brand which is nice and salty.
Tamarind puree: Make sure you read the excerpt above about tamarind pulp and tamarind puree in case you can only find one or the other. Although you can easily get the Sambar Tamarind Puree Concentrate or the Tamicon Tamarind Paste.
Lime: Lime juice will balance out all the strong flavours in this dressing while also diluting the paste to give it a better salad dressing consistency.
Chilli paste: You can pretty much use any chilli paste you like, or just fresh chilli/peppers if you prefer. For a good chilli paste, try the Thai Kitchen, Chili Paste, Roasted Red.
Palm sugar: Palm sugar comes in packets in your Asian grocers either in small oval blocks or in a large cylinder. Either is fine to use.
Chilli Tamarind Dressing Method
Thinly shave palm sugar and add to a small mixing bowl.
Add fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind purée, then mix until the palm sugar dissolves.
Add chilli paste and stir well to combine.
Best Salad for This Dressing
Thai Prawn Salad with Chilli Tamarind Dressing
Freshly grilled prawns, aromatic Thai herbs and a zesty Chilli Tamarind salad dressing with a good kick of chilli, this Asian-inspired salad is mouth-watering goodness.
More Salad Dressing Recipes
Salad dressings are incredibly easy to make in the comfort of your own home. This way, you can control the ingredients to suit your palate, and you can make the exact portion you need for that one meal. We have a vast collection of recipes and you may just like some of these:
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Ingredient Pairing Ideas
If you’d like to create your own salad and have an ingredient you’d like to hero, we have some great pairing suggestions to help you work out what flavours go well together.
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Chilli Tamarind Dressing
- 1 tbsp palm sugar, shaved
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp tamarind puree
- 1 tbsp chilli paste
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Thinly shave palm sugar and add to a small mixing bowl.
- Add fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind puree, then mix until the palm sugar dissolves.
- Add chilli paste and stir well to combine.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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