Seeni sambal

Sugar sambal

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    1 x 250 ml


Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

Although its Sinhalese name translates as ‘sugar sambal’, this condiment contains very little sugar. Such an aromatic sambal, it goes with just about everything, not just vegetarian meals, but also meat, chicken and egg curries.


  • 80 g ( oz) seedless tamarind pulp (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) hot water
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves shredded
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 5 cm (2 inch) piece of pandan leaf, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • juice of 1 lime


Soak the tamarind pulp in the hot water for 15 minutes. Push the mixture through a fine sieve, into a bowl, and discard any fibres.

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion, chilli powder, curry leaves, garlic, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and pandan leaf and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is caramelised, but not too dark.

Stir in the sugar, salt, lime juice and tamarind water and cook, stirring regularly, for another 15 minutes, or until the onion is glossy and the mixture is piping hot.

Spoon into a hot sterilised jar, seal and leave to cool.

The sambal will keep in the fridge for 2–3 weeks, but should be left at least overnight to let the flavours combine and settle. The sambal will harden upon refrigeration, so will need to be warmed gently before serving.