Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Sambar..the first & foremost of all south Indian Dishes. It is again a " must have" in almost all festivities in the south. Every state and culture have a variant sambar recipe. Some like it more sweet, whereas others have it spicy with even ground fried coconut paste.

This dish is said to have an interesting origin. Many many years back when the Maratha's where ruling Tanjore under the King Sambhoji who was a great connosieur of food, he used to cook a dish with kokum which he got from Maharashtra. But once it so happened that there was delay in getting kokum for his favorite dish amti. The kitchen staff suggested that he use Tamarind instead which is used by locals for the sour taste.The chef king decided to try that and that was the origin of this new dish which got his name.

Soon this dish got popular in his kingdom and in nearby places ( who can refuse the King's recipe and still remain alive). In coastal areas where use of coconut was popular, spiced ground coconut paste was also added.

Though this does sound quite far  fetched, it does explain the use of  Toor Dal and Asafoetida which are predominately grown and used in the western part of the country.

Ingredients : -
Toor Dal - 1 cup
Tamarind Pulp - Size of a lemon
Asafoetida ( Kayam) - 1/2 tsp
Sambar Powder - 3 tsp
Chilli Powder - 2 tsp
Salt - 2 tsp

Veggies : -
a) Carrot - 2 no:s
   Yam - 100 gm
   Raw Banana - 2 no:s
   Drumstick - 1 no:

b)   Brinjal - 1 or 2
      Pumpkin - 100 gm
      Melon - 100 gm
     Tomato - 1 no:
     Chopped Small Onion ( Shallots / Sambar Onion ) - 10 to 15 No:s

Coconut Oil - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
1 sprig each of curry leaves & coriander leaves ( coarsely chopped)
Red Chillies - 3 no : s

Cut all the veggies as blocks.. ( medium big sized) Boil the toor dal with salt and chilli powder with thrice amount of water in a pressure cooker. After the first whistle. Add all veggies listed as " a " in the Ingredients listing. These vegetables need more cooking hence the variation. Add the sambar powder and close the cooker and cook till next whistle. At this point add veggies listed as " b" along with the tamarind extract and asafoetida powder.
While it is getting cooked, heat oil in a kadai, splutter some mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chillies. After the next whistle, add this to the sambar along with the chopped coriander leaves. Stir well and the dish is done.

It can be served well with rice, idlis , dosa's etc. Usually sambar tastes better 6 - 7 hours after cooking may be it takes so long for the sourness of the tamarind to really mix well with the veggies..

Other veggies which can be used are potatoes, variety beans, beet roots, white radish and so on. Just classify it correctly under either a) or b) while cooking. Another variant is use of single vegetables but all other ingredients remain the same. For example Onion Sambhar, Mulangi sambhar etc. Karnataka also has Sambar rice ( Bisse Belle Bath) which is rice soaked in hot sambar.

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