Seeni Sambol Recipe (Sri Lankan, Sinhala)

Home cook Sharmini Jayawardena


This recipe is my mother’s recipe for seeni sambol, and I consider this my signature dish as very few Sri Lankans make it in this way, today. It is authentic. My email address having seenisambol in it 😊!

Seeni sambol is a Sri Lankan delicacy. It is a side dish to be had as an accompaniment with main courses.

This unique sambol is best had together with our kiribath or milk rice🍚, which we usually have on festive and celebratory occasions.

Apart from that it goes well with bread and butter and as a filling in buns, with rice and other accompaniments, with Sri Lankan hoppers, string hoppers, (putu mayam), pittu (putu pirin) and Sri Lankan pol roti, (flat coconut bread).

It is also a great side dish to be had along with our yellow rice and other accompaniments . Seeni sambol is ideal with plain steamed rice and other accompaniments such as dhal curry, brinjal curry, French bean curry, tomato curry, potato tempered or potato curry, tempered ladies finger, chicken curry, mutton curry or wild boar curry, fish curry, pol sambol and salaadhey.

INGREDIENTS for making Seeni sambol

From Left to Right: pandan leaf, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon, tamarind, curry leaf, Maldive fish pieces, cardamoms.

Red onions

900 gm small onions (red onions), peeled, washed and cut into fine strips
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 tsp pounded Maldive fish or umbalakada flakes
5 Cardamoms
5 Cloves
2, 2” pieces of Ceylon cinnamon
5 sprigs curry leaf
1 pandan leaf cut into 2” pieces
3 tsps heaped, tamarind made into juice by adding water to it. It will amount to 2 tbsps. of a thick juice. Strain.
2 tsps Chili powder or more
1 tsps turmeric powder
Sugar to taste
5 tblsps coconut oil for shallow frying


1.Peel, wash and cut the onions into thin strips. Like so –

(By slicing the onions lengthwise and cutting it lengthwise once again.)

2. Pound the maldive fish into small flakes.

3. Pound the spices into a powder or add the spices whole. In which case you must open up the cardamom pods slightly so as not to let the seeds out.

4. Wash the pandan and curry leaves, cut into about 2” pieces, and set aside.

5. Heat coconut oil in a wok, kuali or such pan for shallow frying the ingredients.

6. Pour in the coconut oil. When the oil gets heated add the sliced onions

to it and stir well until the onions start to get caramelized and turns brown in color.

6. Once it begins to caramelize, add the maldive fish🐠🐟🎣 flakes and fry until done. Keep stirring, making sure it doesn’t catch the bottom of the pan.

7. Add all the spices and herbs 🌿 and fry until you get a good aroma and the onion becomes a deeper brown.
8. In a bowl, mix together the coconut 🌴 🥥 milk 🥛, tamarind juice, chili powder* and turmeric powder and mix well.

Tamarind juice

9. When all the ingredients are well done, (onions are caramelized), add 5 ladles full of the coconut milk mixture to the fried ingredients and cook until dry or until the oil surfaces.

10. Have a taste and add salt, sugar and chili powder to taste. It should have a slight tang to it and a sweet flavor with a bit of heat.

11. Now your seenisambol is done ✅ 😁😋

You can carefully remove the spices and herbs from the seenisambol. Some may not like munching on a cardamom or a clove!

Remove excess oil and save it for using as oil for frying other dishes.

Freshly made Seeni sambol

1. Seeni means sugar in Sinhala, so this sambol needs to have some sweetness to it.
*For those who want it ultra spicy 🌶 🌶 🌶 🥵, you can go low on the sugar and add chili powder to your taste.

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