Sambar is a South Indian lentil and vegetable stew made with pigeon pea lentils, tamarind and a unique spice blend referred to as Sambar powder. It is miles a staple dish in South Indian homes and is also equally famous and cherished by many.
For Tamarind Pulp
- 1 tablespoon tamarind
- ⅓ cup hot water
For Cooking Dal
- ½ cup tur dal or arhar dal (pigeon pea lentils) – 100 grams
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1.5 to 1.75 cups water or add as required
For Cooking Vegetables
- x1 to 1.5 cups chopped vegetables like okra, French beans, potatoes, small round brinjals, pumpkin
- 1 to 2 drumsticks – scraped and chopped in 3 to 4 inches sticks.
- 6 to 7 pearl onions (Sambar onions) or 1 small to medium onion, thickly sliced
- 1 tomato – small to medium, quartered or diced
- x¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder – optional
- salt as required
- 1.5 to 2 cups water or add as required
- 1 to 1.5 tablespoons Sambar Powder
- tablespoons sesame oil (gingerly oil), can also use coconut oil or sunflower oil or ghee
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 to 2 dry red chilies – halved and seeds removed
- 10 to 12 curry leaves
- 2 pinch asafetida (hing)
- 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) – optional
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) – optional
Making Tamarind Pulp
- Soak the tamarind in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Once the tamarind gets soft, then squeeze the tamarind in the water itself. Discard the strained tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.
- Rinse tuvar dal a couple of times in water.
- Drain all the water and add the dal in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
- Add 1.5 to 1.75 cups water and mix. Cover and pressure cook dal for 7 to 8 whistles or 9 to 10 minutes on medium heat.
- When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dal. The dal should be completely cooked and mushy.
- Mash the dal with a spoon or wired whisk. Cover and keep aside. You can see the consistency of dal in the pic below.
- When the dal is pressure cooking – rinse, peel and chop the vegetables.
- Take the chopped vegetables in a pan or pot. Also add 6 to 7 pearl onions or 1 small to medium onion (thickly sliced) and 1 small to medium tomato (quartered).
- Sprinkle turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder and salt as per taste. Adding Kashmiri red chili powder is optional and can be skipped.
- Add 1.5 to 2 cups water and stir.
- Keep the pan on a stove top and begin to cook vegetables on a medium-low to medium flame. In between do check when the vegetables are cooking.
- Cook till the vegetables are almost done. Ensure that you don’t over cook the vegetables.
- Once the vegetables are almost cooked, then add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.5 tablespoons sambar powder. Mix well.
- Add the mashed dal. Mix again very well.
- Simmer on a medium-low heat till the sambar comes to a boil.
- You will see a frothy layer on top when the sambar begins boiling. At this step switch off the heat. Cover and set aside.
- In a small pan or tadka pan, heat 2 tablespoons gingelly oil. Add ½ tsp mustard seeds.
- Let the mustard seeds crackle.
- Then add 1 to 2 dry red chilies (halved and seeds removed).
- Immediately add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 5 to 6 methi seeds and 2 pinches of asafetida (Hing). Be careful as the oil splutters while adding curry leaves.
- Fry them till the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp.
- Immediately add this tempering mixture in the hot sambar.
- Cover the pan with its lid for 4 to 5 minutes, so that the aroma and flavors from the tempering mixture gets infused with the sambar.
- Serve sambar hot. You can garnish it with a few coriander leaves if you prefer. It can also be served with steamed rice, idli, dosa, medu Vada or uttapam.