Know The All-Powerful Tamarind

I was invited to judge Iron Chef America once. The battle was Bobby Flay versus chef Hong Thaimee, chef and owner of the New York Thai restaurant Ngam. The Chairman did his dramatic thing to unveil the special ingredient through a thick mist of disco-era fog. I was hoping for Kobe beef, turbot, whiskey—some glamourous or luxurious foodstuff worthy of its own fog machine.

But when the fog dissipated, I was left staring at a table overflowing with . . . tamarinds. Harrumph. My mouth puckered on instinct.

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