I was talking to someone about Indian cuisine and the ‘authentic’ recipes for various dishes was the main point of discussion. I think the cuisine has evolved so much over the ages that it is difficult to call anything authentic. Each household has their particular way of preparing a dish which can’t be replicated. Even within a state, the taste and method of a preparing a particular dish changes almost every twenty kilometers or so.
Take the utterly delicious sambar, a dish that spans more than one state. The recipe for this humble yet very popular dish varies even in the state of Tamilnadu where it originate from. There are some basic things that go into it but ultimately each sambar is unique in its taste and texture and an assortment of seasonal vegetables goes into it depending on personal taste, availability and season.
I love sambar and eat it with plain rice, idli, vada, dosa or sometime l just indulge in a hot bowl of sambar with no accompaniments. It is filling and nutritious. A one pot meal. Soaked poha stirred in sambar is an interesting combination I discovered. Well, I don’t know if you would like to experiment but I enjoyed the taste.
I make my version of this South Indian delicacy. In cooking this way, the veggies get infused with the spices and taste incredible. I use both the wet sambar masala and the dry one. Both add a distinct taste to the dish. This recipe uses the dry sambar masala and fresh brown tamarind we find in the northern states. (not the paste)
To make this sambar You will need :
Toovar / Arhar / Pigeon pea lentil – 3/4 cup
Assortment of vegetables –
drumstick – 2 cut into inch long pieces
diced red pumpkin – 1/4 cup
diced bottle gourd – 1/4 cup
diced tomatoes – 1/2 cup (small) 1/4 cup ( bit size pieces)
diced french beans – 1/4 cup
diced red onion – 1/4 cup
diced carrot – 1/4 cup
Fresh ginger and garlic – 1 1/2 tablespoon grated fine
tamarind extract – 1/2 cup
Powder Ingredients :
red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
coriander powder – 1 teaspoon
Sambar Powder – 2 table-spoon ( to taste)
turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
asafoetida powder – 2 pinch
For tempering/ seasoning:
curry leaves – 2 springs (6-10 leaves)
Whole red chilies – 1-2
mustard seed – 1/2 teaspoon
fenugreek seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
asafoetida / hing – generous amount ( about 3 pinches of powder)
The preparation and collecting ingredients for sambar is the daunting task but after that it’s easy to assemble.
To make tamarind extract :
Take about two tablespoon of tightly packed tamarind and soak it in 1/2 cup boiling water, cover and keep for 10 minutes. Gently massage the soaked tamarind and squeeze out the pulp till all the pulp gets released into the water. Run it through the sieve to remove any particles. You will have a nice extract to add to the dish. You can use the ready-made paste too but the taste will differ than this one. (I use the waste to clean brass artifacts and utensils.)
Wash and soak toor daal ( I use the I-Shakti unpolished daal) fo 10-20 minutes. You can mix yellow moong daal or the pink lentil with toor to get another variation in taste)
Drain the water and rinse it again.
In a pressure cooker add daal, 3 cups of water, 2 pinches of hing, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little salt. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles ( depends on the quality of daal and the cooker) It must become soft when done.
Stir it into a smooth paste with a ladle or the sambar won’t taste nice.
While the daal is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Wash and dice all the vegetables you want to use. As I do not pressure cook them, I steam the drumsticks separately if using. I don’t add it to daal while pressure cooking as sometimes drumsticks are bitter in taste.
Put a deep pan on medium heat and add some oil ( 1 tablespoon). Once it heats up, add a little mustard seeds, half of the curry leaves and 1 whole red chili. When the seeds begin to splutter add the chopped red onion, shallots and stir.
When the onions become translucent, add ginger and garlic ( you can add it to the daal while pressure cooking it too).
Add all the vegetables and give it a good mix. (don’t add the bigger tomato pieces yet)
Add all the powdered spices, a bit of salt and stir. This ensures that the veggies absorb all the flavors of the spices. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook till vegetables become soft but not squishy. Add the tomatoes at this point. Stir it properly and let it simmer for a few minutes. Do not overcook the vegetables.
Now, add the daal and the tamarind extract to this mélange of vegetables. Give it a good stir and add water as required to make a nice, thick flowing sambar. You can adjust the quantity of water as per your liking. I prefer my sambar slightly thick. ( remember the sambar masala and the veggies will soak up the liquid, so adjust accordingly.
Let the sambar come to boil and then simmer it for some more time.
Meanwhile place a tempering pan on medium heat and add a teaspoon of oil. Add a hing, mustard and fenugreek seeds, whole red chili, remaining curry leaves and then pour this tempering over the cooked sambar. I divide the tempering in two parts, first while cooking the veggies, then at the end to make it more flavorful. You can choose your own way. Adding tempering at the end ensures a great everlasting aroma and flavor.
Garnish the delicious, aromatic sambar with fresh coriander greens and serve hot with steamed rice, idli, vada or dosa.
Always add the tamarind extract after the vegetables have cooked. I use half of it first and add more if needed. You can adjust the spices and sourness of sambar according to your taste. Dice all the vegetables the same size to ensure uiniform cooking.
Sambar stays good for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. I usually make a little extra and keep it in the fridge to use it the next day with some other accompaniment.
Sambar Masala (podi) – Those who use the readymade variety I recommend Catch and MTR. I grind my masala for aamti as well as sambar. Will share the recipe in some other post. I had this yummy sambar with MTR rava idli and dry chutney. Didn’t have time to make the idli batter at home this time. We can later have an idli, vada recipe post too. Not to forget the lip smacking chutnies. 😀
Do let me know if you make this.
Now all this writing has made me very hungry so I am sneaking away to dunk some fresh idlies in the delicious sambar and enjoy my lunch.
Catch you later. 🙂