Seeni Sambol (Sweet Onion Relish)
How to Make Seeni Sambol in 5 Easy Steps
A Caramelized Onion Relish from Sri Lanka
Nothing says home like having a breakfast of seeni sambol (Sinhala: සීනිසම්බෝල) with kiribath! If you were born and raised in Sri Lanka like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t Sri Lankan and never had seeni sambol before, it’s time to change that. Seeni Sambol can be literally translated as “sugar salad”. It’s a sweet relish made out of caramelized onions that Sri Lankans enjoy for breakfast or as a side dish later in the day.
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved this sweet and spicy dish and I remember how the whole class used to gather around my schoolmate Ganga’s lunch table whenever she brought her auntie’s seeni sambol to school. I learned this recipe from my own aunt, who makes some of the best Sri Lankan food I’ve ever tasted. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as I do! It’s really easy and tastes fantastic! You can enjoy seeni sambol with bread, rice or string hoppers, but my personal favorite is with kaha bath (yellow rice) and boiled egg. If you like dry fish, you can add a little bit of maledive fish to the mix and it will taste even better.
2 lbs of small onions
2 tbs ground chili pieces
1 inch of cinnamon
2 inches of pandan leaves (rampe)
2 branches of curry leaves
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 cardamom cloves
3 1/2 tbs vegetable oil
salt to taste
optional: 3 tbs of ground Maldive fish (umbalakada)
1. Cut the onions into small pieces, cut the pandan leaves into 3 pieces.
2. Fry some of the onion pieces (about 3 tbs) in the vegetable oil until light brown.
3. Add chili pieces, cinnamon, cardamom, pandan leaves, salt, the curry leaves and optionally the Maledive fish to the rest of the onion pieces and mix it well by hand.
4. Add the mix to the pot with the 3 tbs of fried onion pieces and fry on low fire until it’s light brown while stirring regularly.
5. As soon you see that the mix turns completely red, add the sugar, stir it well and take the pot off the fire.
- Some people like to use tamarind or goraka cloves, but I never use them when making seeni sambol, I feel it tastes much better without.
- It’s best to use red onions (rathu lunu), but white onions will do as well.
- Add some ground maldive fish pieces during step 3 for extra delicious taste.
- If you don’t want the dish to be too spicy, use 1 tbs ground chili pieces and 1 tsp sweet red pepper instead of 2 tbs of chili pieces.