Southeast Asian cuisine uses different types of tamarind in many dishes, primarily in soups. Back in the day and even still now in remote villages in Asia, fresh tamarind is still used to create the most deliciously piquant dishes, soups and stews. High in calcium and Vitamin B, tamarind lends its unmistakable tartness, along with a beautiful, rich brown hue.
For the purpose of cooking in modern kitchens around the world though, recipes have been adapted to incorporate tamarind concentrate instead of fresh tamarind, which is much more readily available in Asian and western markets. Tamarind concentrates available in the West possess a thick consistency similar to tomato ketchup, adding a chunkier texture to soups and stir-fries. More powerful than lime or lemon, the unique flavor of tamarind should not be replaced unless you absolutely cannot find it. Then you can substitute fresh lime juice and lime zest.
The most readily available tamarind concentrate available in the west is produced by Thailand and typically comes in a small plastic container with a blue cap.