Lara Lee

Sour Power
Article
Learn how to punch up your cooking with tamarind, one of the world’s most beloved and versatile ingredients.
Advertisement
Tamarind Chicken
Rating: Unrated
2
The beauty of this grilled tamarind chicken is both its sharp and piquant flavor and its simplicity. A potent tamarind-and-chipotle marinade renders a richly flavored, juicy, and tender chicken in mere minutes, making it equally suited for a weeknight meal or a dinner party. The tamarind concentrate in the marinade adds a sour funk that complements the freshness of the cilantro leaves and smoky heat of the chipotle chile paste. The marinade gives the chicken a dark, lacquered appearance and will char a little as it cooks, becoming caramelized, chewy, and ultimately, mouthwateringly delicious. Grilling the chicken over coals will naturally impart a more smoky finish, while roasting the chicken in the oven (see Note) will produce the liveliest sour and spicy flavors.
The sourness of tamarind breathes new life into the classic Millionaire's Shortbread (also affectionately known as Caramel Slice), a traybake of layered shortbread, caramel and chocolate that has been a fixture in home cook's kitchens since 1970 when the recipe was first published in the Australian Women's Weekly Magazine. Tamarind concentrate adds a gloriously sharp acidic profile to balance the decadent caramel layer of this version of the afternoon treat, topped with the bitter sweetness of dark chocolate and a coconutty shortbread biscuit base (food writer Rosie Birkett first pioneered this wonderful flavor combination). If you are struggling to find room in the fridge to set the final chocolate layer, simply leave the slice to set on the kitchen counter for 2 hours instead. Keep a clean, damp cloth handy to wipe your knife between cuts when serving up the slice for perfect crumb-free and crack-free chocolate precision. Slices should be served at room temperature for the best chew.
Tamarind-Chile Jam
Rating: Unrated
1
"Move over tomato ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mayonnaise," says cookbook author and recipe developer Lara Lee. "There's a new condiment-that-goes-with-everything in town!" Meet Tamarind-Chile Jam, a one-pot wonder that is sweet, spicy, sour, sharp, tangy, and pungent all at once. Savory, funky fish sauce balances the fruity sourness of the tamarind, while long red chiles add a pleasantly strong piquancy to this thick and sticky jam. Its uses are endless; spread it on a sandwich, serve it alongside sausage rolls, dollop it over eggs, dunk sweet potato wedges into it, or use it as a condiment for meat, chicken, or fish. For those who are heat adverse, seed the chiles before adding them for a milder jam. Use a wide, deep saucepan for faster reduction time—be careful of splattering jam—and take the pot off the heat as soon as the jam has reduced to 1 1/2 cups; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Tofu Pad Thai
Rating: Unrated
New!
Pad Thai, also called kway teow pad Thai (meaning "Thai-style stir-fried rice noodles"), is customized in endless ways by street food vendors, restaurateurs, and home cooks all over the world. But at the heart of this beloved Thai noodle dish is a delectably sweet, salty, and sour sauce that's seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, and lime juice. Lara Lee's meatless pad thai heroes hearty, savory fresh oyster and shiitake mushrooms, which suffuse the dish with earthy flavor and combine beautifully with chewy noodles, golden-fried tofu, fresh, crisp bean sprouts, lightly spicy long red chiles, and crunchy peanuts. Tamarind sits firmly at this pad thai's center, balancing the dish and holding it all together with its delightfully sour high note. When you prepare the dish, be sure to wash and dry the skillet after browning the mushrooms to prevent the fond from burning while cooking the tofu and peanuts. To make it vegetarian, use a vegan fish sauce, such as Ocean's Halo, and swap mushroom sauce for the oyster sauce.
Aromatic lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and spicy ginger combine with tart fruity tamarind and rich, sweet coconut sugar to create a potent and delicious Tamarind Cocktail Base that can be used in all kinds of concoctions. Combined with rum and fresh lime juice, it becomes a zippy Tamarind Daiquiri. With the addition of tequila and a splash of club soda, it becomes a refreshing Tamarind Cooler. Or try it in combination with your favorite iced tea for Tamarind Arnold Palmer. Lara Lee, who created the Tamarind Cocktail Base, also loves to add a splash of it to Dark and Stormy cocktails and Mojitos. Want to prepare your cocktail mix in advance? Simply freeze the tamarind cocktail base in ice cube trays and they will melt quickly when stirred together with the remaining ingredients.
This is a vivifying soup, good in warm or cold weather. The chile and ginger gently warm your mouth, while acidic tomatoes and tart tamarind come together in the delicate and fragrant broth, which, while light, is full of flavor and satisfying. The fish gently poaches in the broth during the last minutes of cooking, which infuses both the soup base and the fish itself with aroma and flavor, leaving the fish tender, flaky, and moist.
Advertisement
Sweet, hot, and tangy, these ribs from chef Lara Lee are seriously delicious, and easy to make indoors — no grill or smoker required. Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce that forms the foundational sweet and tangy flavor, and sticky texture, of the glaze that coats each bite of these tender ribs. If kecap manis is unavailable, see Note below for a homemade version.
Sambal Matah
Rating: Unrated
New!
Chef Lara Lee's Sambal Matah is bright and fresh, packed with lemongrass, lime, chiles, and ginger. Sambal refers to a group of Indian and South Asian condiments, usually based on a mix of hot chiles and fresh aromatics like shallots and ginger. Use this version as a relish with noodles or fried rice, or to accompany fish, a steak, or fritters. While its best the day it is made, Sambal Matah can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
This is a vivifying soup, good in warm or cold weather. The chile and ginger gently warm your mouth, while acidic tomatoes and tart tamarind come together in the delicate and fragrant broth, which, while light, is full of flavor and satisfying. The fish gently poaches in the broth during the last minutes of cooking, which infuses both the soup base and the fish itself with aroma and flavor, leaving the fish tender, flaky, and moist.
Sweet, hot, and tangy, these ribs from chef Lara Lee are seriously delicious, and easy to make indoors — no grill or smoker required. Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce that forms the foundational sweet and tangy flavor, and sticky texture, of the glaze that coats each bite of these tender ribs. If kecap manis is unavailable, see Note below for a homemade version.
Sambal Matah
Rating: Unrated
New!
Chef Lara Lee's Sambal Matah is bright and fresh, packed with lemongrass, lime, chiles, and ginger. Sambal refers to a group of Indian and South Asian condiments, usually based on a mix of hot chiles and fresh aromatics like shallots and ginger. Use this version as a relish with noodles or fried rice, or to accompany fish, a steak, or fritters. While its best the day it is made, Sambal Matah can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Chef Lara Lee's Perkedel Jagung are all about the sweet, tender corn. Packed with fresh or frozen kernels and layers of flavor from fresh ginger and shallots, fragrant Makrut lime leaves, and floral ground coriander and cumin, these fried treats are delicious served with a balancing spicy Tomato Sambal.
Tomato Sambal
Rating: Unrated
New!
Chef Lara Lee's tomato sambal combines fresh long red chiles, sweetly acidic cherry tomatoes, and tangy tamarind paste in a delicious, nearly all-purpose condiment. Sambal, in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, refers to condiments — usually ones that pack quite a bit of heat. Chef Lee's version is deliciously spicy on it's own, or slightly milder mixed with creamy mayonnaise. Try it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or anything fried and crunchy, or as a spread on a sandwich or burger. A spoonful stirred into a pot of soup or stew adds layers of flavor. The tomato sambal will keep for 3 months in the freezer and up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Advertisement
Es teler sits comfortably in the middle of a Venn diagram of "dessert" and "refreshing drink": it's one of many similarly hard-to-classify (but wonderful to eat) sweets found throughout Asia. This Indonesian treat is served in a glass but is most often eaten with a spoon. Served throughout Indonesia—by street vendors and fancy restaurants alike—es teler is beloved for its cooling properties, and is often consumed "as an afternoon snack," says Lara Lee, the author of the cookbook Coconut & Sambal. This dessert features young coconut meat; crunchy, jelly-like toddy palm seeds; creamy avocado; pleasantly fibrous jackfruit; and chewy tapioca. Look for pandan leaves in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores; their floral vanilla flavor makes the leftover syrup great in coffee or spooned over ice cream. For a shortcut, used canned young coconut meat and coconut water. A shaved ice machine makes easy work of the crushed ice.
Lamb Martabak
Rating: Unrated
New!
This martabak is one of Lara Lee’s favorite snacks from her Indonesian cookbook Coconut & Sambal. The traditional version is made with a thin, translucent sheet of oiled homemade dough that is pan-fried in a cast-iron pan, but for easy entertaining, Lee recommends using spring roll wrappers. Lamb martabak is a fantastic canapé or appetizer to kick-start a dinner party. It’s best eaten immediately and served with sambal on the side for dipping.
This sambal is one of the simplest to make and is beautiful in appearance as well as taste. It is also one of the hottest. The coarsely ground shallots, garlic, and chiles caramelize as they cook down in the fragrant oil, producing a sambal that is as delicious as it is vibrant, and it tastes incredible with anything that loves a drizzle of ketchup or chili sauce.