And we have a winner — seeni sambol & egg patties. They are so, so good. I took our standard Sri Lankan patty dough, rolled it thin, cut circles, all the way you would for typical chicken patties.
I did some extra small, to see how they’d come out, and they were very cute when fried, and a nice little snack — I ate some on the flight today, and they were lovely with tea at room temperature. (I also tried baking one, and it was, I’m afraid, pretty eh. They want frying.)
But when they’re that small, there isn’t room for egg, and I wanted the unctuousness of the egg balancing the intensity of the seeni sambol. So I went back up to typical patty size (which is just fine for a tea or cocktail party anyway), filled it with seeni sambol and a sixteenth of a boiled egg (you could do an eighth, but I wouldn’t recommend anything bigger), folded it and crimped it up. (I tried making one that was round, which was a fun experiment, but I didn’t like it as well as the classic patty shape.)
Then, for a little added color and zing, I brushed it all with an egg wash, and then deep-fried it. It. was. perfect. I’ll write the recipe up properly the next time I make it; all the experimenting meant that I wasn’t up for measuring everything until I knew which was the winning approach. Maybe for New Year’s!
But in the meantime, if you know how to make patties already, it’s very easy to adapt for seeni sambol. Leave out the Maldive fish if you like, and your vegetarian friends will thank you for this delectable little snack.
As we discussed possible containers for the seeni sambol, Kevin advocated for buns — which, fair enough, is actually traditional. Seeni sambol buns can be found sold in roadside stands across Sri Lanka, so obviously, people like them.
But there was a problem — those buns were too big for cocktail / tea party. Could I make mini buns instead?
The answer was yes — I made the buns half-size (which, if you use my mas paan recipe, means that you’ll end up with 60 little buns), which was just big enough that you could dollop a teaspoon of seeni sambol and an eighth of a hard-boiled egg into the center, before closing them up.
The end result was just fine, I’d say, and I would be happy to serve them to people. This would be a great option for taking them on the road as a snack, as they’re nicely closed up and will keep well. You should even be able to freeze them, I think, though I haven’t tried that, and I’m not positive what the cooked egg would do. I also tried slashing the top in a criss-cross pattern, which makes for a more interesting presentation for a cocktail / tea, and lets you see a little bit of the bun.
Overall, I’d grade these as a B+.
But I was pretty sure I could do better…
I’m a little obsessed with seeni sambol, the Sri Lankan traditional accompaniment of caramelized onions, cooked long and dark with tamarind and chili — made vegetarian if you like, but even tastier, I have to say, with some dried Maldive fish simmered in. The perfect accompaniment to an egg hopper — but egg hoppers are actually kind of a pain to make, especially for a party, as you have to cook each one individually and steam them slowly. And they’re not bite-size treats — I wondered how I could introduce my American friends to the glory of seeni sambol at a cocktail party or tea. And thus, we set out on our quest — to create the perfect seeni sambol appetizer.
The first attempt was, I’m sad to say, a failure. I was in a hurry, cooking a lot of things for our holiday party, and so I went for the simplest option available — pre-made wonton shells from the grocery store, filled with seeni sambol. They were…all right, I suppose? The wonton shells felt wrong, though; they were too crispy, and they didn’t meld with the sambol. Adding some cooked egg helped — that was definitely the right flavor the seeni sambol needed to mellow the pungency and make a rich, yummy bite. But I didn’t think the wontons were the right container. I’d have to try something else.
Also, when I tried pre-filling the wontons and refrigerating them, the seeni sambol gave off oil that discolored the wontons and made them a little greasy to pick up. Not ideal. If you really want to go with the wonton option, fill them right before serving.