Amba is a tangy mango pickle condiment popular in Middle Eastern cuisine (particularly Iraqi and Israeli cuisines) but also popular in India. Its name derives from the Sanskrit for mango. It is typically made of mangoes, vinegar, salt, mustard, turmeric, chilli and fenugreek, similarly to savoury mango chutneys.
Amba is frequently used in Iraqi cuisine, especially as a spicy sauce to be added to fish dishes, falafel, kubbah, kebabs, and eggs.
Amba is popular in Israel, where it was introduced by Iraqi Jews in the 1950s and 1960s. It is often served as a dressing on Sabich and as an optional topping on falafel, meorav yerushalmi, kebab and shawarma sandwiches. Similarly, Assyrians typically use amba along with falafel, too.
Amba is similar to the South Asian pickle achar. The principal differences are that amba has large pieces of mango rather than small cubes, and that achar also contains oil.
- 5 green (unripe) mangoes, peeled and sliced or diced
- ½ tablespoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 2 fresh small hot chilli peppers, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped or minced
- ½ tablespoon ground fenugreek
- ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground sumac
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, according to taste)
- juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- water as needed (about 1 cup)
- chopped coriander, for garnish (optional)
- Toss the mango with the salt in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and chill overnight.
- The next day, heat a wide pan over medium-low heat. Add oil. When it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, turn heat quickly to low and add peppers. Stir once (you don't want to scorch the mixture).
- Add mango and spices, stirring to incorporate. Add lemon juice. If mixture appears dry stir in water in about ¼ cup increments. Add brown sugar, stir until melted in.
- Cook, stirring, until mango chunks are tender, adding water as needed. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Scrape into containers and refrigerate.
- Allow the flavours to develop, at least overnight.