Amba is a tangy mango pickle condiment popular in Middle-Eastern cuisine particularly Iraqi and Israeli cuisines but also popular in India. Its name derives from the Sanskrit for mango.
Amba is frequently used in Iraqi cuisine, especially as a spicy sauce to be added to fish dishes, falafel, kubbah, kebabs, and eggs.
Amba is popular in Israel, where it was introduced by Iraqi Jews in the 1950s and 1960s. It is often served as a dressing on sabikh and as an optional topping on falafel and shawarma sandwiches.
Similarly, Assyrians typically use amba along with falafel, too.
Amba is similar to the South Asian pickle achar. The principal differences are that amba has large pieces of mango rather than small cubes, and that achar also contains oil.
Amba in Literature
Amba is also prevalent in literary works, mainly memoirs. In his memoir Baghdad Yesterday Sasson Somekh dedicates a whole chapter to amba. He uses amba to tell the story of the Iraqi Jewish community that had satellite communities in India and Southeast Asia. In the same chapter Somekh references another Iraqi, who wrote a short story about amba. Khalid Qisthini, a columnist at Asharq al-Awsat, wrote a short article on remembering the foods of Baghdad of the past. His article is titled “Talking about the food of amba and sammoon, which characterised Baghdad of the past." He remembers that in his youth, school children would rush out of school to get sammoon with amba from the street vendor, who, if he were generous, would add a little more amba.