The Sweet-Tangy Condiment You've Been Looking For
If you aren't already familiar with amba, the mango pickle sauce that's popular in India and the Middle East, it's time to get acquainted.
Making a sabich, the Israeli-Iraqi street food sandwich, involves many architectural considerations. At Shoo Shoo, a Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant in Manhattan, the sabich is a carefully constructed lunch item. The pita is a little bit fluffier and thicker than the usual, super-thin version, allowing for the crumb to sop up the tahini sauce, made with just lemon, tahini, and salt. It's then stuffed with egg and potato, both of which have slow-cooked overnight, in a nod to cholent, the long-simmering stew that many Jewish cooks would make the night before the Sabbath, a day when no cooking is allowed. The sabich is built in careful layers, alternating the egg and potato with fried eggplant, tahini sauce, tomato seed, cilantro, pickles, and, in a final flourish, a dash of amba, the tangy-sweet mango condiment that pulls the whole delicious affair together.
If you're familiar with Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine, no doubt you already know about amba, the mango pickle sauce that's popular in Iraq, parts of India, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. It's made of mango, vinegar, salt, and spices, often including fenugreek and chili. It's got a flavor that's slightly bittersweet and tangy, and its bright color adds a pop of color to whatever you're dabbing it on. In Iraq, it's often used on seafood platters, and in Israeli, it's drizzled over falafel.
Amba is a great, bright condiment for adding to summer dishes. I've used it to dip fries into, plopped some on fish tacos, and mixed some into a pot of chickpeas. You can make your own amba if you're feeling intrepid, but it's also become more widely available nationally thanks to Trader Joe's, which began stocking Amba Mango Sauce at its stores in a bright orange pouch.
Not sure quite how to use it? Try adding it to something like this falafel casserole, or this fish with Israeli salad. As with all condiments, there aren't actually any rules. Just put it on anything you think might taste good and try it out. Amba is worth seeking out, whether for a sabich, or for some concoction of your own.