I'm Eating What?! Tamarind Ball Candy

tamarind package.jpg
Photos by Eric Barton
Leave it to your boss to inadvertently ruin your good mood. After last week's grass jelly debacle, I decided to take fate back into my own hands and hand-select the food I'd be eating for this week's post. At my last trip to Publix, I was waiting in the checkout line, just behind someone writing a check for three bucks of groceries, when a bright-yellow package caught my eye.

It read Ocho Rios Tamarind Ball Candy and had a comical picture of the world's happiest bee. It also boasted a couple of "Guaranteed A-1 quality" and "100% Natural" stamps on it. I quickly grabbed the package, paid for it, and put my mind at ease knowing this week, my taste buds wouldn't risk permanent damage.

I walked into the office, smiling and proclaiming I'd found my food item for the week: what looks to be delicious sugar-coated candy. The boss tells me he's had it before, and it's an ingredient in a sauce that I'd never be able to guess. Rather than ruin it, I asked him to keep it a secret so I can taste the Tamarind Ball Candy unadulterated. About an hour later, he confesses he can't keep a secret and blurts out "Worcestershire sauce" before walking back to his office. Good mood: gone. How does one make a candy from a major ingredient in a meat marinade? I sulk around the office for a while before deciding to go ahead and take my medicine.

I tear open the package and dump the contents onto the desk. About seven round, sugar-coated, brown... droppings landed on the desk with a plop.

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A couple of people observe that they look like little balls of poo rolled in sugar. Not wanting my anticipation to plummet any further, I grab the most sugar-coated of the bunch and pop it into my mouth.

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My teeth start tingling almost immediately thanks to the brown-sugar coating. I let the taste of sugar linger for a few seconds before biting into the tamarind ball. The texture is like one of those candy jelly orange slices, only stringy. As soon as the now-exposed inner layer of tamarind washes over my taste buds, the sugary taste in my mouth is complemented with a sour one. Not nearly as sour as a lemon, but somewhere on the Sour Patch Kids end of the imaginary sour scale I just made up. John Linn summed it up perfectly by proclaiming tamarind ball candy "nature's Sweet Tarts."

But watch out, though, some of these little balls contain pits, which were a bit of a surprise to find in the middle of a candy. Which probably explains this warning.

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If you'd like to try some out for yourself, seek out the checkout aisles in your local Publix. They'll run you about $1.50.


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