Tamarind usually comes in a sticky block which you have to reconstitute in water, or as a paste which you usually find in a jar and which can be used immediately.
How to make tamarind paste from the fresh fruit: see the video above! You can find fresh tamarinds in Asian stores.
To prepare block tamarind for use in cooking
Cut the amount you need from the block of tamarind using a clean sharp knife. Place it in a bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover. Leave it for up to 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to push through a sieve. Discard the seeds and stir the sieved tamarind into your dish. Use less to start with, then increase the amount until you get the flavour you want.
How to use tamarind paste
You don’t have to do anything with tamarind paste, just add it to the dish. As with block tamarind, add a little to start with, then increase the amount until you get the flavour you want – use a clean spoon each time so you don’t contaminate the jar of tamarind and you can use it again.
How to store tamarind
Tamarind keeps for years if you store it covered in its original wrapping in a cool, dry, dark cupboard. Once you open the packet, keep it wrapped in plastic in the fridge.