I received two letters in as many days asking for a recipe for Sambar. Allow me to re-post an older blog to answer both requests.
Uthaya Kumar from Malaysia wrote:
“Dear Kurma Ji, I’m a vegetarian. But I do have a penchant for garlic and onions since as you know they are heavily used in South Indian cooking.
Well, I have been trying to meditate, but to no avail. I do think that maybe I need to get rid of onions and garlic since they may halt the progress.
My question: is it possible for sambar to be made without onions and
garlic? Thank you, Kumar.”
“It certainly is possible, and is done like that in all orthodox temple kitchens in South India as well as in the homes of orthodox Vaisnavas. Here is my sambar recipe. Give it a try. You may also wish to add the excellent Sri Vaisnava sambar masala recipe posted here. Happy cooking!”
Traditional Hot-and-Sour Toor-dal (Sambar)
This South Indian soup is traditionally chili-hot. Reduce the chili content for a milder version. Sambar features three main ingredients: toor dal, tamarind pulp, and a special spice powder called sambar masala. All three ingredients are available at any Indian grocer.
Sambar’s delightful hot-and-sour flavour can be made more substantial with the addition of practically any vegetable of your choice. Serve it with plain fluffy rice, with any South Indian selection. Serves 5 persons.
1 cup split toor dal
6 cups water
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 teaspoons butter
3 or 4 tablespoons tamarind puree
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons hot green chilies, seeded and minced
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
handful fresh or dried curry leaves
½ teaspoon yellow asafoetida powder
1 – 2 tablespoons sambar masala
1½ – 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
Wash and drain the toor dal. Soak the dal in 1 litre of hot water for 3 hours. Drain.
Boil the dal, water, turmeric, and butter over high heat in a 4-litre/quart saucepan. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour or until the dal becomes soft. Whisk or blend the soup until smooth. Add the cayenne, sugar and tamarind puree.
Heat the ghee or oil in a small pan over moderately high heat. Saute the mustard seeds in the hot ghee until they crackle.
Add the green chilies and fenugreek seeds. When the fenugreek seeds turn a darker shade, add the curry leaves, asafetida, and sambar masala. Saute momentarily; then add to the simmering dal.
Remove from the heat, season with salt, garnish with the chopped coriander, and serve hot.