6 July 2008

A few of my favourite things: Sambar

What memories does a tamarind evoke? Of putting a tiny bit into the mouth and instantly shutting the eyes tightly and twisting the lips into a strange pout as the sharp tangy and sour flavours explode into the senses leaving a subtle sweetness at the same time....

Or of the tamarind tree in school, the meeting point which protected us from the sun and rain, waiting for friends after school before walking back home....

Or the lone tamarind tree, at the far corner of the house at my native village, which provides the entire family across three generations their annual supply of the fruit....

Or the delicious sambar exuding an enticing aroma of curry leaves, spices and tamarind?

Sambar conjures the image of a very satisfying, homely meal with rice, a thoran(stir-fry) and pappadam or a lavish sadya(feast) where one asks for endless servings of sambar to accompany every other item on the menu. Every South Indian household has its own version of sambar. The recipe given here is for sambar with freshly ground masala. A large variety of vegetables like pumkin, ashgourd, bottlegourd, carrots, taro, capsicum, small green/purple brinjals/eggplants, large onions or small pearl onions, drumstick, okra etc. Pearl onions are very popular with sambar lovers though I personally don't care much for them. Tempering the sambar with ghee makes it aromatic and tastier. Serve sambar with idlis, dosas or plain, steamed rice.




You'll need:
1/2 to 3/4 cup toor dal
1 1/2 cups of diced vegetables of your choice - red pumkin, ashgourd, bottlegourd, carrots, taro, capsicum, small green/purple brinjals/eggplants
a handful of pearl onions/shallots
1-2 drumsticks cut into 2 inch pieces
3-4 okra cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large tomato chopped into large chunks
A small lime-sized ball of tamarind - if using old, dark tamarind, a marble sized ball will do
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
a handful of coriander leaves for garnishing

For the sambar masala:
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp methi seeds
2-3 dry red chillies (the spicy variety)
a few curry leaves
1 tbsp oil/ghee for roasting

For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies
a pinch of hing/asafoetida
a few curry leaves

Wash and soak the toor dal so that it cooks fast. Place the toor dal with water, a pinch of turmeric and salt in a pressure cooker separator and the chopped pearl onions and vegetables except the tomatoes, okra and drumsticks, in another separator above the dal and pressure cook till the dal and vegetables are done. Cook the drumsticks in a vessel with sufficient water, some turmeric and salt till tender. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water and extract the pulp, discarding the seeds. Then add the tamarind extract to the drumsticks and let it boil for a few more minutes.

Dry roast the coconut in a heavy bottomed pan till golden-brown and remove. In the same pan heat 1 tbsp of oil/ghee and roast the remaining spices for the masala till aromatic. Remove from flame and cool. Grind the spices and coconut with very little water to a fine paste.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil/ghee and add mustard and other items for the tempering. Add the chopped okra and fry till soft. Add the tomato, ground masala paste, drumsticks, tamarind extract and cooked vegetables and allow it to simmer till the tomatoes are soft. Add the cooked dal and adjust consistency. The sambar should neither be too thick nor too thin. Check salt and seasoning. Bring the sambar to a gentle boil and switch off the gas. Mix in the coriander leaves and serve hot sambar with rice, idlis or dosas.

13 comments:

sra said...

Hmm ... not one of my favourite dishes. Put it down to the daily supply of sambar in the hostel! I never seem to get the dal-tamarind ratio right!

Asha said...

I love a good tasty sambhar too. Before we go for vacation, I make some and freeze it. As soon as I step in the house after we come back, I take the sambhar out and make some rice!:D
Your sambhar looks delicious, bookmarked, will cook and freeze it this week!:)

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

hi jyothsna
i like sambhar too and can each day of the week..especially during afternoons.

A&N said...

Great intro to Saambaar :) Enjoyed reading it. Also loved the Dahi Bhalle!

Sunshinemom said...

I love the background. The sambar comes next:)

Nags said...

i love sambhar too and its the dish i make best :)

SMN said...

I always like mix veggie sambhar for their rich taste.. looks good

Jyothsna said...


Sra - Sambar is one of the *very few things* I can have everyday!! Can't say I'm good at making it tho'!:)

Asha - Thanks. Sambar is comfort food esp after a vacation! I'm not sure if you can freeze this sambar - it has coconut in it.

Anamika - Good to see you here!:)

A&N - Thanks :)

Sunshinemom - :D Thankyou!

Nags - I'd love to taste your sambar!

SMN - You said it!:)

Swati: Sugarcraft India said...

Hi Jyothsna

Sambhar is cooked very frequently at my place.. One of our favourites too..
Gonna make this very soon ..

Dibs said...

Hi found your site through foodie blog roll. Your template looks great. I really like the way its scrolls over the background!

Sambar is a fav for me too. I like 'cooker-sambar' best! Its quick and retains all the flavours, not to mention the nutrients. Just posted in my blog about an hour ago!

Shreya said...

It's my daughter's favorite!! Even today morning, she refused to eat the idlis because I did not make sambhar and had made chutney. I am actually tired of making it almost every day (fresh) for her. Nice recipe:-)

Jyothsna said...


Swati - Good that you too are a sambar lover!

Dibs - Welcome here and thanks! Will come over shortly.

Shreya - Hmmm....sambar rules, huh? :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Unfortunately I don't have any memories of tamarind, so I'll have to enjoy yours.