Amba (condiment)

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Alternative namesAmba Sauce
TypeCondiment, Spread or dip
Place of originIraq
Region or stateIsrael, India, Pakistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia
Created bySassoon family
Main ingredientsPickled mango

Amba or anba (Arabic: عنبة‎, but also mis-spelled عمبة, أمبة, همبة, Hebrew: עמבה‎) is a tangy mango pickle condiment of Iraqi origin, that is also popular in Israeli cuisine. It is typically made of pickled green mangoes, vinegar, salt, turmeric, chili and fenugreek. It is somewhat similar to savoury mango chutneys.


Mangoes being native to South Asia, the name "amba" seems to have been borrowed, via Arabic, from the Marathi word āmbā (आंबा), which is in turn derived from the Sanskrit word āmra (आम्र, "mango").[1]


According to the urban legend, amba was developed in the 19th century by members of the Sassoon family of Bombay, Iraqi Jews originally from Baghdad.[2] Iraqi Jewish immigrants brought it to Israel in the 1950s as an accompaniment to their Shabbat morning meal.[3]


Jewish cuisine[edit]

The dish is found in Sephardi cuisine and Mizrahi cuisine. Amba has become very popular in Israel since its introduction to the country by Iraqi Jews in the 1950s and 1960s. Now one of the most common condiments in Israel, it is used as a condiment in sandwiches, as well as a topping for hummus and other mezzes. One difference with Israeli amba is that it is always made with unripe, green mangoes, which contribute to its more savory flavor as unripe mangoes taste less sweet.[citation needed] It is often served as a dressing on shawarma sandwiches, falafels, and usually on sabikh.[4] and as an optional topping on falafel, meorav yerushalmi, kebab and salads.

Iraqi cuisine[edit]

Amba is frequently used in Iraqi cuisine, especially as a spicy sauce to be added to fish dishes, falafel, kubbah, kebabs, and eggs.

Saudi Arabian cuisine[edit]

Amba is popular in the Arabian Peninsula, sold in sealed jars or by kilo. Eaten with bread as part of nawashef (a mixed platter of small plates containing different types of cheese, egg dishes, pickles, ful mudammas, falafel, mutabbag and offal) type meals at breakfast or dinner.

Indian cuisine[edit]

Amba is similar to the South Asian pickle achar. Some differences between Israeli and Indian amba are that Indian amba tends to be sweet, similar to a mango chutney, while Israeli amba is more savory.[citation needed] Indian amba is much thicker than Israeli amba often with large pieces of mango rather than small cubes, while Israeli amba is much more smooth and has a sauce-like consistency.[citation needed] Another difference is that Indian amba also contains oil and oftentimes mustard, while Israeli amba never contains these ingredients.[citation needed]

Amba in literature[edit]

Amba is also mentioned in literary works, mainly memoirs. In his memoir Baghdad Yesterday Sasson Somekh dedicates a whole chapter to amba.[5] He uses amba to tell the story of the Iraqi Jewish community that had satellite communities in India and Southeast Asia. In the same chapter Somekh references another Iraqi, who wrote a short story about amba (Abd al-Malik Noori, "It happened on a Friday").

Khalid Qisthini, a columnist at Asharq al-Awsat, wrote a short article on remembering the foods of Baghdad of the past. His article is titled “Talking about the food of amba and samoon, which characterised Baghdad of the past." He remembers that in his youth, school children would rush out of school to get samoon with amba from the street vendor, who, if generous, would add a little more amba.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Dictionary – mango". Spoken Sanskrit. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  2. ^ The delicious sauce connecting Indians, Israelis and Palestinians, Haaretz
  3. ^ The delicious sauce connecting Indians, Israelis and Palestinians, Haaretz
  4. ^ Cheshes, Jay (July 26, 2006). "Passing the Hummus, Reminded of Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  5. ^ Somekh, Sasson. Baghdad, Yesterday: The Making of an Arab Jew. Jerusalem: Ibis Editions, 2007. Print