Saturday, October 25, 2008

Simple Sambar ( Spicy Stew of Lentils With Vegetables)

Sambar is an ubiquitous every day lentil and vegetable stew eaten in homes of South Indian people everywhere. It is typically made with Toor dal (looks like yellow split peas) and vegetables. It is also a must at any and all South Indian feasts. The ever popular Dosa (rice-lentil pancakes), Idli (steamed savory rice-lentil cakes), and Vada (lentil fritters) are sure to be accompanied by Sambar in restaurants.

Here is a quick version made with Sambar Powder. Sambar is traditionally served over plain rice, or with any type of roti like chapati or nan (Indian flat-breads) and accompanied by dry vegetable dishes such as cauliflower upperi, any kind of thoran, or parikkai fry (bitter melon stir fry), a raita, plain yogurt, and toasted or fried papadams, etc.

A simple sambar can be made with one or more vegetables. Some favorites are shallots, moringa pods (Indian Drumsticks), onions, any type of winter or summer squash, eggplant, sweet or regular potatoes, okra, radish, etc.

4 Servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving (without vegetables): 110 Calories; 15 g Carbohydrates; 6 g Protein; 12.5 g Fiber; 3.25 g Fat. The exact nutrient values will depend on the vegetables used.


1/2 cup Toor dal (or Yellow split peas)
2 cups TOTAL assorted vegetables
2 tsp Tamarind paste concentrate
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp coarse Salt
1 Tbsp Sambar Powder
4 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, chopped


1 Tbsp Ghee/Oil (use the ghee for an unforgettable taste if you can)
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds (Optional)
1 whole dry Red Chili
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves


Cook the dal until very soft and creamy.

Prepare the veggies; cut the vegetables into large chunks or cubes.

In a 2 or 3 quart/liter sauce pan combine the vegetables, tamarind paste, turmeric, sambar powder, salt, and 2 cups of water.

Bring the vegetable mixture to a boil and simmer until tender.

Stir in the cooked dal and bring to a boil; turn off the heat.

Prepare thalippu: heat the ghee/oil and cook the mustard seeds, fenugreek, and red chili.

When the mustard seeds finish popping, remove from heat and add asafoetida and then the curry leaves carefully.

Pour the thalippu into the sambar. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Let sit covered for about 10 minutes.

Fish out and discard the red chili and curry leaves from the sambar if you wish.

Serve hot with rice, roti, dosa, etc.

1 comment:

iheartsambar said...

I've had great fun experimenting with this awesome recipe, adapting it to my personal tastes (tho probably ending up with something that a purist my frown at).

I decided to experiment with toning down the tart/sour flavor (I know, this results in something that one might no longer call sambar), switching out the dal, and really supercharging the spices. I wanted to get something less tart, more stew-ey, and even more packed with spicey flavor.

So, I tried a full cup of yellow moung dal (crazy, I know) as they seem to cook up firm. I also added in a third of a cup of red masoor dal, to keep some creaminess to things. I also increased the chopped veggies count to 2.5 cups.

I then toned down the tart flavor by halving the amount of sambar powder listed, halving the amount of tamarind paste and turmeric, but then adding in a healthy dose of chaat masala powder.

On the tadka side, i pretty much double everything, resulting in a spicey double dose.

I couldn't believe the result - probably the best tasting thing to ever come out of my kitchen.

Thanks for this great recipe - I've had loads of fun experimenting with it!