Sambar or Sambhar is a lentil based stew loaded with vegetables that comes from South India. It’s wed for life to Idlis, Dosas, Vadas and Uttappams, sometimes even to rice. ( Yeah, that’s some polygamy goin’ on here). Actually, sambhar can be slurped by itself, and it is the Indian low carb one pot meal that South Beachers probably don’t know about.
With the temps going down, Sambar is perfect for Fall evenings, along with a little bit of rice.
Sambar is made with a mix of vegetables, or sometimes with a particular vegetable as star. The veggies that you add go a long way to deciding the taste of the sambar. And of course, the sambar powder or sambhar spice mix is at the heart of it. If you’re up to speed, you know I blogged about the best sambar powder recipe. I totally recommend that you use that mix for making this sambhar. Or you can use store bought sambar powder like MTR, Everest, MDH etc. I might like you less, but I will still like you ;).
IMO, certain vegetables are essential to get the authentic sambhar taste. Lauki or bottle gourd is one of them. You can use red pumpkin or butternut squash instead. Eggplants and okra are next. And drumsticks, those ugly looking green sticks, will take your sambhar over the top. Onions and tomatoes are easy enough to procure.
A sneaky shortcut I have used many a times – If you live in the US, just grab one of those ‘Sambhar Mix’ frozen veggies bags you get in the Indian grocery stores. They have all veggies in the right proportion and I always have one or two of these bags on hand.
As far as herbs go, curry leaves are a must!! Absolutely! You cannot have real South Indian food unless it has fresh curry leaves in them. And tamarind is next. Using tamarind is somewhat easier. You can do away with the whole soak-juice routine needed for dry tamarind by using a tamarind paste like Tamicon. Tamicon is easily available in Asian grocery stores or online.
Tur Dal or pigeon peas form the base of the stew. If you don’t like tur daal, you can use red masoor dal. Any other daal won’t really be the thing here.
Sambar or Sambhar is a lentil based stew loaded with vegetables that comes from South India. Serve with Idlis and Dosas, rice or just as a healthy stew.
- 1 carrot chopped – 1 cup
- 1 cup lauki or pumpkin
- 3 small eggplants/ half cup
- 4-5 okra
- 2 cups onion sliced
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 2 drumsticks in 2 inch pieces
- 2 Tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
- 4 cups toor daal cooked
- ¼ cup sambhar powder
- 2 Tbsp tamarind paste or
- ½ cup fresh tamarind pulp
- 2-3 Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp jaggery or sugar
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Pinch of Asafoetida
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- Cook about 2 cups of toor dal in the pressure cooker. You should get 4-5 cups of thick cooked dal out of this.
- Slice onions, chop other vegetables.
- Heat oil in a stock pot.
- When oil is hot, add mustard seeds. When seeds pop, add hing or asafoetida, turmeric, cayenne and carrots. Also add curry leaves.
- Stir for a minute and add other vegetables. Add half the sambar powder and mix.
- Add some water to avoid sticking.
- After veggies soften a bit, add about 4-5 cups of water and put the lid on.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are almost cooked.
- Now add tamarind, sugar, remaining sambar mix and cooked daal. Season with salt.
- Bring to a boil and let it simmer again with the lid on.
- Taste and add more sambar powder, sugar or salt as needed. The sambar should be slightly tart and spicy. Sugar should not overwhelm the sour taste.
- Serve hot with idli, dosa, vada, rice or just as a stew.
This recipe makes about 4 quarts or 16 cups of thick sambar. It can be thinned out a bit more based on your preference. Try it out on a breezy Fall evening and let me know how you like it!