Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Amb Da Murabba (Mango Preserves)


While Indians are very concerned about the food they eat, including the condiments, pickles, curries, daals, breads, desserts and so on, very few think about the side of daily life that deals with plain and simple breakfast toast and jam! This recipe is one of the few that deals with the early morning meal, but truth be told, people even eat amb da murabba (mango preserves) as a savory achaar (pickle) with regular meals!

If there’s one fruit that wins the heart of Indians, it has to be the mango which is grown all over. The mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and The Philippines and the national tree of Bangladesh. As any schoolkid in these countries can proudly tell you, it takes seven years before a mango tree can produce any fruit. The Alphonso variety is best for eating but the smaller ones can be sucked through the skin and you make tasty pickles and amchoor from the small, pungent, green ones.

And the mango is even celebrated in the fashion and design world, being drawn in a shape commonly known as paisley but named ambhi in Punjabi. It is a symbol that sprang up millennia ago somewhere between present-day Iran and Kashmir.

Murraba is an Arabic word meaning jam which is popular in many regions of the Caucasuses, Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. It can be made with many types of fruits and even with adrak (ginger) which is considered to have medicinal qualities to treat indigestion, nausea and morning sickness.

Make sure to choose mangoes which are not too green or too ripe as the murraba is usually both sweet and sour. Some recipes ask for adding cardamom or cloves or even saffron and cook the mango pulp over the stove, but mine is a simple recipe that has been used for generations in the Punjab. It can be made with or without salt as the vinegar gives it the proper sour taste and fermentation.



• 2 large aamb (mangoes) – any type, medium ripe ones
• 1 tbsp gur (brown rock cane sugar, jaggery)
• 1 tbsp sirka (white vinegar)
• ½ tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds) powder
• ½ tsp ajwain (carom seeds) powder
• Spices (to taste): namak (salt) optional, mirch (red pepper), garam masala
• Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), hare dhania patta (shredded green coriander leaves)



1. Wash the mangoes and then peel them.
2. Take the pulp off  (discarding the seed) and place it into a bowl.
3. Now chop the pulp into fine pieces but do not puree it.
4. Crush the gur into small pieces. Add it into the pulp and beat with a fork.
5. Now add the salt, red pepper, garam masala, methi dana powder and ajwain powder and mix well. If you want, you can omit adding salt.
6. Pour the contents into a large jar, add the vinegar, close the lid tightly and shake well.
7. Place the jar in a warm place for a day, shaking the contents occasionally.
8. Keep in the fridge for long preservation.



As most South Asians know, the small green illachi (cardamom) is available along with the saunf (green fennel seeds) as you leave many Indian restaurants as a mouth freshener to take the smell of food away. You can chew on it and usually the shell is so dry that you have to spit it out after a while.

Cardamom was first traded from Sri Lanka but is now also grown in Malaysia, Tanzania and Guetamala which is the world’s largest exporter, followed by India. Cardamom are also used in cooking several dishes to enhance the aroma and in sweetdishes. There is even a large, black version which is used almost exclusively in preparing rice palau. But the important thing to remember is to crack open the cardamom when cooking to get the full benefit of it. Nothing is more irritating than to have to chew on a closed cardamom when eating a dish!



mamas recipe inside3
Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad), India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes