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Recipe: Fresh Mint and Tamarind Date chutneys from "Asian Dumplings"

Here's the recipes for Fresh Mint Chutney and Tamarind Date Chutney from Andrea Nguyen's "Asian Dumplings," from Ten Speed Press.

Fresh Mint Chutney
Makes 2/3 cup

While this relish boldly says, “I am mint!,” it also has a bite from chile, ginger, and raw onion. Lime juice and sugar tame and unite the ingredients. This, along with the Tamarind and Date Chutney, provides just the right bright accents to Indian Samosas.

- Andrea Nguyen

Click below to get the recipes.

3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
1 or 2 hot green chiles, such as Thai or Serrano, chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
11/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons water
2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped (1 large bunch)

1. Put the onion in a mesh strainer and rinse for about 5 seconds under cold running water. Transfer to an electric mini-chopper and add the chile, ginger, salt, and sugar. Grind to a coarse texture, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides several times. Add the lime juice, water, and mint. Process to a fine texture; it should resemble a thick pesto. Occasionally stop the machine and scrape down the sides to facilitate an even puree.

2. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to bloom. Taste and adjust the flavors. Add water by the teaspoon if the relish is too thick; however, it should not be liquid. Set aside for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and for the texture to slightly thicken. The initial bright green color will dull, but the flavor will remain robust. This relish tastes best fresh but can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Tamarind and Date Chutney
Makes 1 1/4 cups

This tart-sweet relish is thick enough for you to plop some into the crevices of a samosa for a wonderful, classic Indian food taste treat. Tamarind is known as the “date of India,” and the delectable marriage of the two kinds of dates in this chutney is a natural. Both ingredients lend body, their flavors perfectly complementing each other. I’ve eaten this chutney off a spoon.

If available, use jaggery (unrefined Indian sugar) or Southeast Asian palm sugar instead of the brown sugar. Sticky dark brown slabs of tamarind pulp are sold at Chinese, Indian, and Southeast Asian markets in a double layer of plastic packaging. Soft dates, such as Medjools, work best. Otherwise, soak chewy, hard dates in just-boiled water for about an hour to soften them, then drain and proceed. 

- Andrea Nguyen

3 1/4 to 4 ounces seedless tamarind pulp (a lump the size of a small lemon), broken into 3 or 4 pieces
1 1/3 cups warm water
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates (about 5 ounces)
1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon pounded, toasted cumin seeds or ground cumin

1. In a small saucepan, combine the tamarind and 1 cup of the water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Occasionally stir with a fork to break up the pulp. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to steep and further soften for 5 minutes, or until the tamarind solids have expanded. When you stir the mixture, the pulp should easily combine with the water.

2. Position a coarse-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour in the tamarind mixture. Using a rubber spatula or metal spoon, vigorously stir and press the solids against the mesh to force as much of the pulp through as possible. If necessary, return the pulp to the saucepan, add some of the already-strained liquid, stir to loosen up more of the pulp, and then work it through the sieve again. When the pulp is spent, discard the fibrous leftovers. The resulting liquid will resemble chocolate cake batter. You should have 2/3 to 3/4 cup.

3. Combine the tamarind liquid, dates, the remaining 1/3 cup water, the brown sugar, salt, and cayenne in a food processor. Process to a smooth, thick texture. Occasionally pause the machine and scrape down the sides. The ideal texture is thick enough to mound on a spoon, but you can add extra water for a thinner sauce.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cumin for a pungent finish. Taste and adjust the flavors, as necessary, especially if you thinned the chutney. Set aside for a few hours for the flavors to blend and bloom. Serve, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for a month.

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