What is Pol Sambol?
Pol Sambol, also known as coconut sambol, is a traditional Sri Lankan condiment made from freshly grated coconut, red onions, dried chillies, lime juice, salt, and sometimes fish. It’s a vibrant, flavorful, and spicy side dish that’s often served with rice, roti, or bread and is considered a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine.
Unique Characteristics of Pol Sambol
Pol Sambol is known for its unique blend of flavours – it’s spicy, sweet, tangy, and salty all at once. The freshness of the coconut, the heat from the chillies, the tang from the lime, and the subtle sweetness of the onions come together to create a harmony of flavours that makes Pol Sambol a beloved side dish in Sri Lanka.
Ingredients and Quantities
For a serving of Pol Sambol for three, you will need:
- Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
- Red onion: 1 (finely chopped)
- Dried red chillies: 3 (or to taste)
- Lime: 1 (juice)
- Salt: to taste
- Maldive fish chips (optional): 1 tablespoon
Step-by-Step Guide to Making Pol Sambol
- Preparing the chillies: First, deseed the chillies and soak them in warm water until they become soft. Then, grind them into a paste using a mortar and pestle.
- Making the sambol: Add the grated coconut, chopped onion, chilli paste, lime juice, salt, and Maldive fish chips (if using) to the mortar. Grind all the ingredients together until they’re well combined and the mixture becomes moist and vibrant.
Helpful Tips for the Best Pol Sambol
- Freshness counts: Always use freshly grated coconut for the best results. The freshness of the coconut makes a huge difference in the taste of the sambol.
- Adjusting the heat: Feel free to adjust the number of chillies to suit your taste. If you prefer a milder sambol, use fewer chillies.
The Cultural Significance of Pol Sambol
Pol Sambol in Sri Lankan Cuisine
Pol Sambol is more than just a side dish in Sri Lanka—it’s an integral part of the culinary culture. You can find it in almost every meal, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Due to its versatility, it’s often paired with various dishes like rice and curry, bread, string hoppers, roti, and even with some snacks. It’s also a common accompaniment at parties and special occasions.
Pairing Pol Sambol
What to Serve with Pol Sambol
Pol Sambol is a versatile condiment that pairs well with almost anything. Traditionally, it’s served with Kiribath (milk rice), string hoppers, or roti. However, you can also enjoy it with plain rice, bread, or as an accompaniment to curries. Its unique combination of flavours adds a refreshing touch to any meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I make Pol Sambol without Maldive fish chips?
Yes, you can make Pol Sambol without Maldive fish chips. The dish will still be flavorful, but it won’t have the unique umami flavour that the fish chips add.
2. Can I use desiccated coconut instead of fresh coconut?
While fresh coconut is traditionally used and gives the best flavour, you can use desiccated coconut if fresh coconut is not available. Just make sure to rehydrate the desiccated coconut by soaking it in warm water before using it.
3. How long can I store Pol Sambol?
Pol Sambol can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
4. Is Pol Sambol spicy?
Pol Sambol is typically spicy due to the use of dried chillies. However, you can adjust the level of spiciness to suit your preference by using fewer chillies.
5. Can I use a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle?
While a mortar and pestle is traditionally used to make Pol Sambol, a food processor can be used as a quicker alternative. However, a mortar and pestle is preferred as it helps to release the flavours more effectively.
Health Benefits of Consuming Pol Sambol
1. High in Fiber: Coconut is a great source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and helps to keep you feeling full.
2. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Onions and lime provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, which is known for its antioxidant properties.
3. Low in Calories: Pol Sambol is relatively low in calories, making it a good choice for those watching their calorie intake.
4. Provides Healthy Fats: Coconut contains healthy fats that can help to increase good cholesterol levels.
5. Spices for Health: Chilies are known to have a variety of health benefits, including boosting metabolism and improving digestion.