Seeni Sambola (Fried Onion Mix With Chili, Tamarind & Sugar)

500g onions – sliced
100g Maldive fish – small pieces
50g tamarind
4 cloves garlic – finally chopped
1 inch ginger root – finally chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dry red chili pieces (optional)
1 x 5cm cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods - split
6 cloves – crushed
6 curry leaves
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
6 tablespoons water
salt – to taste

In a small bowl mix tamarind & water together and make a thick paste, and keep it in aside.
Then in a large bowl mix all the ingredients (onions, Maldive fish, garlic, ginger, chili powder, red chili pieces, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and cloves) well, except Curry leaves, sugar, vegetable oil and lime juice. Now cover it and leave it for at least 15-20mins.
Heat the oil in a large pan in medium heat. Firstly add curry leaves and fry it for 1 minute. Then add the onion mixer and fry it for nearly 10 – 15 minutes, stir continuosly.
When the onions are getting brown and the same time you’ll feel a nice smell too. On that time reduce the heat to low, and add the tamarind paste and stir the mixer well. Then add sugar and again stir the mixer. Off the heat and finally add the lime juice and again stir it.
Taste for salt.
In the end you should get a nice dark brown mixer.

Best are rice, bread, hoppers, string hoppers and noodles. But you can have it with your favorites also.

1. If you can find shallots, it is the best with the taste and also when you are cooking water won’t come from that.
2. If you can’t find Maldive fish, you can use dry dry prawns or shrimp also.
3. If you can find coconut oil for frying, that’s the best.



  1. I made this today and it turned out quite good. I think I added a little too much chili powder... wow! It tasted like fireworks.. it was incredible.. made me sweat a little.

  2. Are you saying that we should use shallots instead of onions for the best taste?

  3. Hi Brett,
    It´s really nice to hear that you tried the recipe :-). Next time be careful when you are adding chili power :-).
    Yes Brett, I´m telling if you use shallots ( or even red onions)instead of (yellow) onions, you will get a tasty Seeni sambola.
    The reason is, in (yellow) onions there is lots of water, so while we are cooking, the water will come out and you have to keep it on heat for a long time :-(.

  4. hiiiiii akki,
    watched ur video on chicken curry receipe on Videojug - and then found this. When I make seeni sambol I keep adding sugar to get the colour :D it becomes a real "seeni" sambol. I will try your receipe tomorrow. I prefer sinhalese cooking compared to the moor dishes :o) Wish i had come across your site when i was in college! Cheers and keep up the yummy receipes, farah

  5. Hi Nangi,
    Sorry for the very late reply. so did you try the recipe? if itś so how was it??? Iḿ waiting for the comment :-)

  6. Your recipes are really good, but please improve your videos in you tube. You are explaining very slowly.

  7. A tit-bit that may be useful to U.S. visitors:
    I've noticed that what's sold as shallots in the U.S. isn't the Sri Lankan red onions (rathu luunu) at all, but a paler, bigger onion about twice the size of a rathu luunu. The taste and structure inside the onion is significantly different as well.
    Either rathu luunu iteself or an onion that looks exactly like it is sold as "red pearl onions." I've used them in many dishes, with authentic results, in fact if they are available, that's all I use in my Lankan dishes now. However, I've not made seeni sambole with them yet.

  8. Thanks a lot chamari! this really helped me :) I am going to try this out ive never done this before! I always buy Seeni Sambol from cargills food city :) Thats not good as the homemade Sri lankan once!

  9. Hi chamari,
    I tried your several dishes. They came out very nicely in my first attempt. I tried egg rolls as well (my favourite).
    Please let me know what are the uses of raw curry powder and roasted curry powder...and what are the dishes we use them..
    Keep up the good work...

  10. hello,

    I tried it today it turned out great! but too hot. next time i should use little less chilli powder


  11. good cook, great dishes, thanks for sharing

  12. Seeni sambol is meant to "blow your mind" (and your taste-buds). If, using coconut oil, you fry the finely chopped onions and curry leaves very slowly (to extract all the water)they become "see-through", then continue with the recipe above - except I use 1 teaspoon of Tamarind concentrate as water is the evil monster in the finished product. Put into an air-tight jar with a thin layer of ghee or coconut oil on top. Now for the hard part - Leave in a cool dark place (or fridge) for ONE WEEK. Yes you MUST NOT open the jar for at least a week. Believe me, it is well the the wait as the product has mellowed and not as "raspy"or "raw". Enjoy, Ari (born in Ceylon - yep I'm that old)


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