I recently came across this article published on Business Insider where it was reported that Sri Lankan McDonald’s carries the tastiest Mac Burger which consisted of a folded egg, a slice of cheese and an onion relish – aka seeni sambol!
Reading the article did indeed make my heart skip a beat and took me back to the many lunchboxes which I’ve carried to school as a kid with the almost exact contents (ok so there was rarely cheese in it, but you get the drift!).
I bet most Sri Lankans felt the exact sentiments that I felt as it is truly a very familiar combination of flavours. So what better time than now to share this recipe for a Sri Lankan favourite caramelized onion relish, which is spicy, sweet and tangy that it piques all your taste buds at the same time.
My first attempt at making seeni sambol was a result of desperation while studying overseas. Upon realizing that my ready-made seeni sambol jar which I brought back from Sri Lanka was rapidly depleting. I decided to recreate it in my hostel kitchen and was surprised not just with the result but at how easy it was!
Since then, I have never packed a bottle of seeni sambol in my luggage and spared my luggage weight for more exotic ingredients – like samba rice and canned sardines from Lanka 😉
This makes a delicious condiment for not just burgers, toasties and wraps – but works beautifully well with rice, milk rice and even pastries!
You could check out how to transform this relish and egg combo into a delicious pastry using my cheat method.
Alright, enough talk. This is how you do it.
- Sliced onions
- Curry leaves
- Ceylon cinnamon, cloves and cardamom
- Chili powder and chili flakes
- Dash of sugar and salt to taste
- Tamarind juice or paste (Assam)
- Maldive fish (Optional)
- Oil & water
Mix in the chopped onions together with the curry leaves, the chili flakes and powder, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and salt.
Heat up oil in a heavy bottomed skillet at a low temperature and add in the spiced onions and let it fry – while lightly stirring.
When the onions have cooked through and released most of its juices out – add in a pinch or two of sugar and mix well. Then allow the sugar and the onions to slowly caramelize.
Though this could be prepared as a vegetarian relish, it is traditionally often mixed in with flakes of maldive fish which could be added at this point to add a bit of umami flavour.
Maldive fish – smoked and dried flakes of tuna which is produced mostly in the Maldive Islands- is a very uncommon ingredient which is uniquely and most commonly used in Sri Lankan cuisine.
This is almost equivalent to a belachan in Singaporean/ Malaysian cuisine and totally optional – but a lovely addition.
Finally round up the flavours with a dash of fresh tamarind juice or tamarind paste and adjust the spice, salt, sweet and tangy flavours according to your liking.
To enjoy, toast a slice of bread and slather with a layer of butter and seenisambol and top it off with a fried egg or stuff it in between a burger bun with an omelette and a slice of cheese till you make your way down to Sri Lanka’s McDonalds!
Let me know what you think about this and feel free to share 🙂