Many people have heard the name before. But very few people know what can be done with it: the tonka bean. It is the dark, almond-shaped seed of the tonka bean tree. It grows up to 30 meters high and grows mainly in Central and South America. It was "pretty crumpled and quite inconspicuous - and yet it became a star among spices in a very short time," was recently written in the customer magazine of a health insurance company. A trend spice, it was also said. Although the trend, we may add, has been going on for a while. The tonka bean has been causing a stir in high-end gastronomy since the early 1990s.
If the fruits of the tonka tree fall to the ground when ripe, the seeds can be extracted. Then the process of drying and fermenting, i.e. preserving, begins. In Europe, the bean can only be sold in the fermented state. Because the tonka bean contains coumarin, a fragrance that is harmful to health in high concentrations. The fermentation lowers the coumarin content. The potential danger meant that their sale was banned in Germany between 1981 and 1991. After that the hype started.
The taste of the tonka bean is reminiscent of vanilla, caramel and almond. It is also called "Mexican vanilla". It is perfect for all kinds of desserts, for ice cream or to flavor fruit compotes. It is also highly recommended for making a syrup. Strawberries can be marinated wonderfully with a tonka bean rhubarb syrup. Or you fill up a shot of syrup with mineral water or sparkling wine. Extremely refreshing and something different in taste. Bet you - and whoever you serve the drink to - will get a taste for it?
For a tonka bean rhubarb syrup you need: 1 kg of red rhubarb. A liter of water. 200 milliliters of white wine. Zest and juice of one lemon. 400 grams of brown sugar. Two grated tonka beans (simply grate down on a fine grater). Pull off the outer fibers of the rhubarb from top to bottom. Then cut the rhubarb into small pieces and place in a saucepan. Add the water and the wine. Then the sugar and the tonka bean powder. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Then remove from the heat, allow to cool, pour through a fine sieve and squeeze out the liquid well. The syrup is ready. Pour into a jar, lid on. The syrup can be kept refrigerated for up to four weeks. A premium base for cocktails, to flavor berries or to tune up salad dressings.
Oh yes: the tonka bean is said to have an aphrodisiac effect. Is that also a reason for their growing popularity? We don't know, but don't want to rule it out. However, it has been proven that many perfumes - whether for women or men - contain tonka bean fragrance. You can guess why.
Walter Stemberg and his son Sascha run the "Haus Stemberg" restaurant in Velbert, whose star was confirmed in the "Guide Michelin" for the ninth year in a row. The Stembergs write about the basics of cooking in WELT AM SONNTAG and on welt.de. All episodes online: welt.de/kochschule