Israeli

A Tangy Pickled Mango Sauce to Add to Your Pantry

April  4, 2018

From thick, velvety hummus and spicy shakshuka to swirly babkas and pitas stuffed with falafel, Israeli cuisine isn’t short on bold flavors. Even so, amba, a bright, tangy pickled mango sauce popular on Israeli street foods, stands out from the pack.

“Amba has a very distinct flavor,” says Tomer Blechman, who features the sauce in dishes at his Brooklyn restaurant, Miss Ada. “It’s a little tangy and earthy. It takes completely different flavors and makes them one.”

Amba likes to invite everyone to the party. Photo by Julia Gartland

Typically made from green mangoes, vinegar, and varying spices, amba is a condiment used on sabich, a sandwich filled with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, and a thin tahini sauce. It’s also a popular condiment for falafel, shawarma, and other street foods.

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“For me, amba means street food,” he says. “It’s a distinguished flavor that I carry with me. You put it in an even layer in the pita so it’s in every bite.”

There are many different varieties of amba. Iraqi Jews introduced the smooth variety that Blechman uses to Israel in the 1950s and ’60s. Chunkier versions with slightly different spices are used in many Indian dishes.

“Amba’s best friends are eggplant and tahini,” Blechman says, describing how the tangy sauce contrasts beautifully with the creaminess of eggplant and tahini. He recommends trying amba first with those flavors before experimenting with other recipes.

While many Israelis make amba at home, Blechman ultimately decided that the store-bought kind allowed him more flexibility. For some dishes he prefers smooth Premium amba, but for trying new techniques he’ll use Shemesh. You can buy amba at Middle Eastern markets, or order it online.

Curious to try this tangy condiment? Here are some recipes we think will pair well with amba:

Have you had amba? Share your favorite way to use it below!

8 Comments

susan G. June 4, 2018
Definitely try Creamtea's amba. I've made both of hers, and prefer the one in the sandwich recipe. I've even made it with green tomatoes in place of mango when I have them. It's the spices that make it so tasty.<br />On a recent trip to Israel, I had amba sold in a weekly food fair (in a shopping mall, of course!). I'm sticking with our food52 recipe.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. June 4, 2018
Awesome—thanks for sharing!
 
HalfPint April 4, 2018
I was hoping there would be a recipe for amba sauce. I'm having a hard time finding it in San Fran Bay Area stores.
 
Trena H. April 4, 2018
I was also hoping there would be a recipe. This one by creamtea looks promising https://food52.com/recipes/17424-sour-sweet-hot-and-salty-amba-mango-condiment
 
Author Comment
Katie M. April 6, 2018
Hi HalfPint! Sorry about that—I didn't include a recipe because Tomer only buys his. But the recipe Trena mentioned is great! Or you could try this one: https://food52.com/recipes/30927-chicken-amba-mango-condiment-sandwiches-with-lime-mayonnaise
 
MarieGlobetrotter April 7, 2018
Thank you! That helps
 
FrugalCat April 4, 2018
I was just at my neighbors this morning, fondling the grape sized mangoes that are on his tree right now. Three more months till mango overload.
 
Panfusine April 8, 2018
I'd trade places with you in a jiffy for those tiny specimens.. At this time of the year, I prowl the New Jersey Indian grocery stores like a demented maniac to buy these tiny mangoes.<br />Here's the classic way to deal with those. <br />https://food52.com/recipes/17477-pickled-baby-mangoes-in-a-chile-mustard-sauce-vadu-mangai<br />