Sambar is an utterly popular slow cooked south indian lentil and vegetable stew which is served with idlis, dosa, vada or steamed rice. It is fragrant, nourishing and very comforting. Lentils form a huge part of indian cuisine and every region has its own speciality. Sambar is an everyday dish of the south indian region and over years because of its delicious taste and nutrient dense value, it has become one of the most popular dishes in India.
However, in our north indian family, south indian food was made once or twice a month. It was a special meal and the preparations started a couple days ahead with mom fermenting idli batter and making chutneys. Her sambar recipe is the best if you ask me. I dont claim it to be the authentic for it differs in the selection of vegetables and the way she tempered it. So unlike the drumsticks and squash loaded ones, I grew up on sambar in which went chunks of capsicum(green bell pepper) and green beans and sometimes okra or eggplant. It was a warming, soul satisfying and a beautiful medley of flavors of sambar powder and taste of vegetables.
I make sambar like mom, with the same selection of vegetables. Be it the contrasting sweetness of jaggery and sour of fresh squeezed tamarind pulp or the chewy pungency of black mustard seeds and a subtle citrus nuttiness of curry leaves, every single slurp rings comfort into my soul..
Mom used store bought sambar powder and I do the same. We have a few favorite brands and I stock up on those whenever I go to India or someone is visiting. I sometimes find it in our indian store as well, its a pretty easy thing to find. However, if you do not have ready to use sambar powder, leave a comment and I will write you a recipe.
Many people like to use a blend of lentils but I make mine with just arhar daal (toor/pigeon pea lentils). Sambar is a easy thing to make and tastes better next day or after resting if you are serving the same day. You can prep the vegetables and make tamarind pup while the lentils are cooking(I pressure cook them) and just temper everything and simmer it for about 10-12 minutes.
- Pressure Cooker, Cooking Pot
For Boiing The Daal
- 1 cup arhar daal (toor daal/pigeon pea lentils)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 2.5 cups water
Vegetables (substitute with your choice of vegetables)
- 1 small capsicum/green bell pepper cut into bite size pieces
- 12-15 green beans cut into 1 inch long pieces
- 1 medium firm tomato quatered
- 6-8 sambar onions/pearl onions peeled
Tempering The Sambar
- 3 tbsp oil/ ghee I use avocado oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 3/4 tsp chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
- 3/4 tsp split urad lentils
- 1/4 tsp hing
- 2-3 dried red chilies
- Pinch methi seeds
- 12-15 fresh curry leaves
- 2-3 tbsp thick tamarind pulp adjust to desired sourness
- 2.5 tbsp sambar powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp jaggery powder adjust to desired sweetness
Boil The Daal
- Wash the lentils throughly 2-3 times under a running stream of water.
- Place in the pressure cooker. Add 2.5 cups water and turmeric. Soak for 20 minutes.
- Once soaked, pressure cook the lentils in the same water for 3-5 whistles on medium heat. Switch off and let pressure release naturally. While the lentils are still hot, add salt and using a wooden masher or back of spoon mash the lentils well so that no grain is visible. Set aside.
- While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the vegetables and tamarind pulp. Keep everthing ready.
Make the Sambar
- In a heavy bottom pot,warm up the oil. Temper the oil with mustad seeds. Once they crackle, add the hing, chana & urad dal. Cook till the lentils are browned in color.
- Add the dried chillies and methi seeds next. Saute fo r5-6 seconds till they swell a bit.
- Add curry leaves to the oil, they will immediatley splutter so be careful. Saute for 2-3 seconds and add all the vegetables that you are using at once. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute the vegeatble for a minute or so with the spices.
- Next sprinkle the sambar powder and red chilli powder (if using) and saute for 20 seconds.
- Add the cooked mashed lentils next and mix well. If you feel that they are thickish, add water to thin out as per desired consistency.
- Mix well and let come to a slow boil on medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the tamarind and jaggery. Taste and adjust the salt. Mix well.
- Let simmer for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat stirring a bit in between. Initially you will see that there is a layer of foam on the sambar but as it cooks out, the color will deepen so will the flavors. Rest for 30 mins and serve warm!
Extra Tempering (optional but recommmended)
- Heat 1 tbsp oil or ghee in a pan and add 1/2 tsp mustrd seeds,pinch of hing, 1-2 dried chillies and 8-10 curry leaves. Add on top of the cooked sambar and mix well.