Tamarind pulp can be found as cellophane-wrapped, sun-dried bricks in Asian, Latin, and Indian markets. Tamarind pulp is the sticky interior of pods that grow on a variety of evergreen tree originally native to Africa. Tamarind, which is very intense in flavor, lends sweet-and-sour notes to dishes. Because the pulp usually contains seeds, you should always strain it before use. Pull off an amount appropriate to your needs and soak it in warm, purified water for about 15 minutes. Then strain the pulp and liquid through a fine-mesh colander into a bowl to catch the usable diluted pulp, leaving the seeds and fibers caught in the mesh. [Discard whats left in the strainer.]
This is by far the most popular first course at our restaurant. I have to admit that it was somewhat inspired by Roxanne Klein’s Pad Thai, in which she uses a bit of tamarind together with a spicy almond sauce. I had never really worked with collard greens before, but they were the biggest leaves I could find at the store, and happily they are a very sturdy, perfect wrapper. We make these to order at the restaurant, although they are still seriously yummy as leftovers the following day.
Yield: Makes 12 Wraps
For the wraps:
½ cup chopped raw cashews (dehydrated, if preferred)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped red chile, seeds included
1½ tablespoons nama shoyu
1 cup raw almond butter
½ head savoy cabbage, shredded
6 very large collard green leaves
1 large carrot, cut into matchstick-size pieces
1 large ripe mango, cut lengthwise into strips, about ¼-inch thick
2 cups bean sprouts
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 handful torn basil leaves
½ handful mint leaves (torn or cut if leaves are large)
For the tamarind dipping sauce:
1 cup soaked and strained tamarind pulp
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon nama shoyu
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
1. In a small bowl, mix the cashews, sesame oil, and salt and set aside.
2. In a Vita-Mix or high-speed blender, puree the maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger, red chile, and nama shoyu. Add the almond butter and blend at low speed to combine. Add water to thin if necessary, to get a thick, cake batter like consistency.
3. In a medium bowl, add the shredded cabbage and the almond butter mixture and toss well to combine (this is easiest if you use your hands).
4. Cut out the center rib of each collard green leaf, dividing the leaf in half. Place 1 half leaf on a cutting board with the underside facing up. Arrange a few tablespoons of the cabbage mixture evenly across the bottom third of the leaf, leaving about 1½ inches clear at the bottom. Sprinkle some of the chopped cashews over the cabbage. Lay a few sticks of carrot, a few strips of mango, and a few sprouts on top. Add a few leaves each of cilantro, basil, and mint. Fold the bottom of the collard leaf up and over the filling, keeping it tight, and tuck the leaf under the ingredients and roll forward. Place the roll seam side down on a serving dish. Repeat with remaining collard leaves and ingredients. Serve with the tamarind dipping sauce.
Place the tamarind pulp, maple syrup, nama shoyu, and olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt if necessary. Place in a separate bowl and set aside. This sauce may be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days. It can also be frozen if you have leftovers or want to make it in advance.