Seeni Sambol Breakfast Buns

By Emma.

Mmm seeni sambol breakfast buns. I find myself dreaming about them, craving them. A little odd maybe? Probably! I’m wandering my way through Tamil Nadu in South India at the moment and breakfast so far has been breaking my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love coriander curry but a curry feast at 7am is a struggle. I find myself looking sadly at fermented rice idlis and fondly dreaming of Sri Lanka’s seeni sambol breakfast buns. Sweet and spicey, these buns are wonderful!

Sri Lankan Breakfast Buns With Seeni Sambol Onion Confit This lovely photo (I was far too busy devouring these to actually take a photo) was taken by Eva L. Baughman  for The New York Times.

Post internet trawl for the perfect recipe and a little daunted by instructions on live yeast and proofing (echoes of The Great British Bake-Off’s proofing drawers .. do people actually have these?!) got me thinking about bread (and sure why not? It’s nice to be curious about new things!) and that maybe, just maybe the seeni sambol confit would actually be even lovelier in a poppy seed bun. To be tried!

Total Time: 4 hours, incl rising and resting (it is worth it? Hmm maybe not as a pre-work thing but on a rare, long lazy weekend when motivation strikes: Yes!); Makes 16 buns


A. For the poppy seed rolls:

2 level tablespoons poppy seeds

450 g strong white flour, warmed slightly

275 ml milk, hand-hot

110 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 level teaspoons dried yeast

2 level teaspoons  salt

1 egg, beaten

B. For the seeni sambol:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 -4 fresh curry leaves (if available)

450 g red onions, thinly sliced and slivered

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon tamarind paste

1 teaspoon fresh ginger ,  minced

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water


A. The Dough:

1.  Activate the yeast by pouring 150 ml of the milk into a bowl. Whisk in the sugar with a fork, followed by the dried yeast. Leave to one side for 10 minutes to froth.

2.  Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and  pour in the frothed mixture along with the rest of the milk.

3.  Mix to form a smooth dough. Turn out on to a floured working surface and knead for 10 minutes.

4.  Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave it to rise until doubled in bulk. This  will take 1½-2 hours at room temperature or 45-60 minutes in a warm place.

5. Punch the dough down in the bowl to knock the air out, and then gradually work in the softened butter. The dough will now be very sticky, but ignore this and carry on until the butter is evenly worked in.

6.  Turn it out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead into a round shape then divide this into 16 rolls.

7.  Place each roll on a baking sheet and place into an oiled polythene bag, and leave them to prove until puffy and risen again – about half an hour in a warm place or an hour at room temperature.

8.  Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 190°C and make seeni sambol confit.

B. Seeni Sambol Confit

9.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

10.  Sauté curry leaves and onions, for 5 minutes, until they start to soften.

11.  Add the chili, salt, sugar, tamarind, ginger and cinnamon and continue to  sauté  for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

C. Filling the rolls (wisdom from the New York Times)

12.  Punch down each ball of dough and press with your fingers to form a circle about 5 inches in diameter.

13.  Put a tablespoon of onion filling in one quadrant of the circle, then fold the dough over like a half moon to cover the filling. Lift the portion of the half-moon that has no filling, and fold over once again; the result should resemble one-quarter of a pie.

14.  Pinch only the rounded edges of the dough together, tuck them under, and place the bun on the baking sheet.

15.  Repeat, placing the buns several inches apart.

17. Brush with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

18. Bake for about 15 mins until lightly golden on top and bottom.

19. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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