Monday, August 25, 2014

Sambar - Tamarind Stew with Vegetables

An authentic South Indian (SI) meal is like a melody that you can taste.

Music has a rhythm, a beat and a soul; a SI meal has colors, spices and texture.

Music is all about striking a chord in perfect harmony; a SI meal is all about striking the beautiful balance between different tastes (sweet, sour, hot, tangy, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent and etc.)

It is a king’s meal with rice being the king’s favorite minister. The three-course meal menu includes sambar rice, rasam rice (recipe here), yogurt rice with any choice of vegetable curry and of course, a dessert (Didn’t I tell you it is the perfect blend of so many flavors and tastes?)
Having said enough, here is the recipe for 'sambar' ( the first course of the meal) , which is translated as 'Tamarind Stew with vegetables'. It is a simple track with catchy beats. There are so many other beats to this stew that will soon be posted here.Until then, here is the most basic version of Sambar.Mix it with steamed white rice and enjoy the pride of South India.

Note : I have used pearl onions for this sambar. It can be substituted with any vegetable of your choice (capsicum,ladies finger, radish, eggplant/brinjal, pumpkin, drumstick, chayote squash and etc) 
Ingredients :

Toor Dhal ( Pigeon Peas ) - 1 cup
Turmeric Powder - a pinch

Tamarind Pulp - small gooseberry sized / tamarind paste - 1/2 tsp
Water - as needed

Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek Seeds - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Peeled Pearl Onions (small) - 10 to 12
Sambar Powder - 2 tsp. Recipe here
Salt - As needed
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Cilantro - few finely chopped

Preparation :

1. Pressure cook the toor dhal with little more than 2 cups of water (just enough to soak the dhal) along with turmeric powder for 3 to 4 whistles. The number of whistles differs between pressure cookers. Once the dhal is cooked, mash it well and keep aside. 
** Make sure you mash the dhal well **

2. Add the tamarind paste to 1.5 cups of water.
   Soak the tamarind pulp to 1.5 cups of water and filter the extract leaving behind the pulp

Method :

1. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida.

2. Allow the mustard seeds to splutter. Add the onions and fry for couple of minutes.

3. Add sambar powder and fry again for a minute.

4. Add the tamarind water,salt and allow it to boil for sometime.

5. Add mashed dhal and boil for some more time till the consistency of sambar gets thick.

6. Garnish with curry leaves and cilantro.


1. For more aroma, add little curry leaves when the sambar is boiling in step 5. You can reserve the rest for garnish.
2. As mentioned earlier, you can replace onions with any other vegetable but IF you are using mix of veggies, ensure you mix the veggies that goes well with each other.
3. If you are using other vegetables, you can microwave them with little water for couple of minutes to quickly cook the vegetable.


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