Or Tina’s Tamarind jam, if only this stupid font would let me display special characters.

Tina is my friend.

It’s hard to understand the excellence of Tina unless you’ve actually met Tina. She is tiny. She cracks spines – expertly – for a living. She likes Taco Bell sauce. She’s studying Singlish as a foreign language. She’s allegedly a strong swimmer, but I have yet to see her dip a toe in the water. She says “yummy” a lot. She is made, I think, of puppies and rainbows and unicorns, covered in a thin layer of taco bell sauce, encased in a hard shell of Strong Independent Woman. No one, but no one, makes me giggle and snort like a lunatic like she does.

At Chinese New Year Tina, along with a group of our friends from Singapore, joined me for a long week end in Kep. You know, Kep, that idyllic quiet little coastal town in Cambodia that was just this week featured in the NY Times.

We did as one does in Kep: we ate our combined body weight in fresh crab straight from the ocean, purchased durian the size of a toddler, and squabbled over who would get the last of the tamarind jam for breakfast.

This stuff was amazing. Tart and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, delicious on bread and butter. Tina interrogated the staff at Le Flamboyant, where we were staying, and found out that they made it fresh from the fruit of the tall beautiful tamarind tree in the resort’s garden.

“This jam is yummy”, she said.

MAKE ME TAMARIND JAM.

I agreed, because although Tina is tiny she is also a little scary; I wasn’t sure whether she would let me back into Singapore without paying a heavy tamarind jam tribute to the Ministry of Manpower first. My first attempt was a disaster. After hours of straining tamarind pulp through a broken sieve and scalding myself on the hot bastarding tamarind liquid, I produced a wonderful, thick looking, rich dark brown batch of tamarind jam… that tasted of grit and battery acid. It went straight in the bin.

Then Barbara, the lovely manager from Le Flamboyant, sent me their recipe. “This is the recipe for tamarind jam”, she wrote, “but I did not get any specific measurements because they do it by feeling so to say”.

3 kg of tamarind, put water and salt in a bowl, add the tamarind, keep them in the water for 24hours. Throw the water away, add new water and let sit for another 24 hours. Then the tamarind is soft so all the grains can be taken out. The remaining paste is being boiled in a pot, add sugar and cinammon, stir – for another 4 hours.

52 hours for a pot of jam? No wonder they only gave us a spoonful. “Oh, this jam? Have as much as you want, I’ll just run over to the salt mines and kick orphans and three legged puppies into whipping up another batch for you.” And there we were, scoffing it down like greedy First World pigs.

I followed the process loosely, this time with much better results.

TINA’S TAMARIND JAM
500g of sour tamarind.
300g white sugar
100g palm sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 generous pinch of salt

Put the tamarind and salt in a large tupperware container, then add enough water to cover the pulp generously. Keep in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day, the pulp will have softened and rendered some of its acidity into the water. Get rid of most of the liquid, cover again with fresh water and return it to the fridge for another 24 hours.

If your tamarind still had seeds in it, remove them. Gently simmer the tamarind and water mixture until the pulp is very soft.

Before the liquid starts to reduce, strain the pulp through a sieve to remove the remaining fibres and seeds you may have missed. This is more difficult than it sounds. You may curse and swear at the person who made you make tamarind jam. It’s a good time to start boiling your clean jars and lids, possibly while muttering dark threats under your breath. After about 10 minutes, you can transfer the jars to an oven at 110 degrees Celsius until you’re ready to use them.

Return the remaining tamarind pulp to the heat, and add the sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a roiling boil, and let it reduce until the mixture is dark brown. Test a dollop of it on a cold plate: the jam shouldn’t be runny, and the surface should wrinkle slightly when pushed with a finger. Jar the jam while it’s still hot, then turn the jars upside down to create a vacuum and leave to cool down.

And the verdict?
Tina said it was yummy.