Amba (condiment)

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TypeSpread or dip
Place of originIndia
Region or stateIndia, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia
Main ingredientsPickled mango

Amba or anba (Arabic: عنبه ,عمبة, أمبة, همبة‎, Hebrew: עמבה‎) is a tangy mango pickle condiment popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine (particularly Saudi, Iraqi, and Israeli cuisines). It is typically made of mangoes, vinegar, salt, mustard, turmeric, chili and fenugreek, similarly 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]


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 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.

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 sabikh[4] and as an optional topping on falafel, meorav yerushalmi, kebab, salads and shawarma sandwiches.

Amba is also used in Assyrian cuisine, especially with falafel.

Amba is similar to the South Asian pickle achar. Some differences are that amba tends to be sweet, often with large pieces of mango rather than small cubes, and that achar also contains oil.

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]

See also[edit]


  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