Sambar is an extremely popular spicy and tangy lentil soup that originated in Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. Interestingly, the dish is actually named after Sambhaji, second emperor of the Maratha Empire. The reason for this apparently is that Thanjavore (a city in Tamil Nadu that is famous for its cuisine) was governed by the Marathas (rulers from the Western Indian state of Maharashtra) in the 17th century. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambar_(dish)).
My favorite sambar is the one that is served at Saravana Bhavan, a South Indian restaurant chain that has outlets in a number of cities. I have been to their outlets in Chennai, Kuala Lampur, Singapore, Dubai and New York and their quality is absolutely consistent across locations. The one I visit most often is their New York restuarant (located on the corner of Lexington Ave and 26th St) and my favorite dish there is Pongal Wada that is served with sambar and coconut chutney. I usually ask for a second helping of sambar and they always oblige.
My version of sambar is really very simple. It may not be the best sambar out there, but I’ve been making this dish for over 10 years now and most folks (including my friends from Tamil Nadu) love it. I like to add a lot of vegetables like eggplant, green beans, carrots etc, in addition to onion and tomato. You can also add okra, opo squash, radish, cauliflower or any other older vegetables in your fridge, instead of tossing them in the trash can. These vegetables add great flavor, texture and taste to sambar. You can also add finely grated fresh coconut to enhance the flavor.I pressure cook toor dal to make a soft and mushy paste that forms the base of the sambar. I sauté the usual seasoning ingredients in a pan (curry leaves, green chili pepper, dry red chili pepper, urad dal). I add all the vegetables, sauté them for a couple of minutes and add turmeric powder and sambar powder (I’ve been using 24 Mantra Organic Sambar Powder for a couple of years now and it is really good). I then add a couple of cups of water, tamarind paste, salt, sugar, mix well and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. I add the pressure cooked dal to this mix, cook for 7 to 10 minutes, add cilantro and turn the flame off. Total cook time is under 30 minutes.
Sambar has toor dal which is a good source of protein and fiber. It also has a number of vegetables that bring in the additional fiber and nutrition value.
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- 1/2 Cup Toor Dal Pigeon Peas
- 1/2 Cup Eggplant Small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Green Beans Small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Carrots Small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Tomato Small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Onion Small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Cilantro Fine cut
- 1/4 Cup Fresh coconut Grated
- 6 Curry Leaves Split in half
- 1/2 Dry Red Chili
- 1 Green Chili Pepper Slit lengthwise
- 1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Urad Dal
- 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Sambar Powder 24 Mantra Organic
- 1/4 Teaspoon Sugar Or Jaggery
- 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt Or to taste
- 3/4 Teaspoon Tamarind Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil Extra Virgin
- Make sure you have the right quantity of toor dal and vegetables cut and ready for easy access
- Also have the seasoning ingredients(curry leaves, green chili pepper, dry red chili pepper, urad dal) readily accessible
- Sauté seasoning ingredients in a pan. Add all the vegetables, sauté them for a couple of minutes and add turmeric powder and sambar powder
- Add a couple of cups of water, tamarind paste, salt, sugar, mix well and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes
- Add the pressure cooked dal to this mix
- Mix well and cook for 7 to 10 minutes minutes
- Add cilantro and turn the flame off. Transfer to serving dish and serve hot sambar