A taste of East Africa isn’t complete without tamarind juice. Endemic to tropical African zones, such as the swahili coast, tamarind is the pod-like fruit of a bushy dense tree, that frankly looks completely unappetizing to eat. Fortunately, tamarinds are pressed into juice so you don’t have to look at it to enjoy its flavor.
We first enjoyed tamarind juice in Lamu and couldn’t decide what it was. The flavor was something akin to a tart iced tea and we thought perhaps it was a pre-made mix. It was both sweet and sour. Over the next few days we were served it again and again and finally discovered that it wasn’t a mix at all, but the crushed pulpy juice of this rather exotic fruit.
Not to sound like a broken record, but tamarind is actually found all over southeast Asia and you guess it – was centuries ago traded by Indian Ocean traders. Unlike the chapati or so many other things we’ve found in East Africa, tamarind is actually endemic to Africa! Finally something truly African.
Although the taste is sweet and sour, which is sort of unique in a drink, the fruit is actually very high in nutrients, including calcium. Watch out if you want to enjoy it though, tamarind pulp is considered a natural laxative, something that I think most travelers are most certainly not looking for!