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How to make perfect sambar at home

Puffy crispy vadas, steaming idlis or piping hot dosa, nothing is complete without sambar, which also traditionally serves as the best accompaniment to your rice meal

Deepa Gupta | New Delhi |

South Indian food is perhaps the fieriest of all Indian foods. This style is largely vegetarian. Sambar, the South Indian vegetarian stew made of pulses and vegetables, is a soup-like lentil dish tempered with whole spices and curry leaves. A traditional South Indian meal is incomplete without sambar. Read on to know how to make sambar at home.

Sambar is a fairly thick spicy extract of arhar dal, soured with tamarind. It is made with vegetables like brinjal, drumsticks, pumpkin, gourd and lady fingers. Curry leaves, mustard seeds, asafoetida, red chillies, peppercorns, and tamarind are the other important ingredients that together form yummy sambar. Sambar can be eaten with dosa, idli, vada or cooked rice.

Sambar-rice is a staple food in South India. With most meals, you will get a big heaping plate of rice with a bowl of sambar on the side. The typical and traditional way to relish sambar is to pour it on the rice served on banana plantain leaf, mix them well and eat it with your hand.

The lip-smacking South Indian preparation is much more than an assortment of delicious flavours. Every sambar lover must know how to cook it perfectly at home. Here is a delicious recipe of sambar you can try at home.

Serves: 10
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

Arhar dal: 500 grams
Whole red chillies: 2
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Tamarind: A small ball
Sambar masala: 2 tsp
Fresh coconut: ½ (ground)
Pumpkin: 50 grams
Brinjal: 1 small
Lady finger: 6-7
Gourd: ½ (small)
Drumsticks: 3-4
Oil: 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds: 2 tsp
Curry leaves: 10-12
Garam masala: 1 tsp

For sambar masala

Chana dal: 50 grams
Urad dal: 50 grams
Hing (asafoetida) powder: A pinch
Whole red chillies: 8
Black peppercorns: ½ tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp

Method:

Make the sambar masala first. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan. Fry the dry chana dal and urad dal for two to three minutes on low flame. Add hing powder, eight whole red chillies, peppercorns and one teaspoon of turmeric powder. Saute for few seconds, turn off flame. Let it cool. Grind all these things in a mixer-grinder adding little water as required to grind the ingredients into a smooth paste.

Wash the tamarind and soak it in two cups of lukewarm water for an hour.

Sieve the pulp along with water to separate the seeds.

Boil the tamarind pulp adding the prepared sambar masala for 15 to 20 minutes on low flame, stirring it occasionally, and keep it aside.

Chop all vegetables in cubes (neither too big, nor too fine). Wash arhar dal thoroughly and soak in water for an hour.

Transfer the soaked dal into a pressure cooker. Add all chopped vegetables, one teaspoon of turmeric powder, one tablespoon of salt and 10 cups of water.

Give a whistle on high flame. Then simmer it on low flame for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the flame. When the pressure comes out, open the lid of the cooker. Add the mixture of sambar masala and imli pulp into it. Mix well and cook it uncovered for around 30 minutes on low flame. Stir occasionally. Add garam masala, give a good stir.

Turn off flame. For tempering, take a pan and heat one tablespoon of oil in it. Add mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add curry leaves and two to three whole red chillies. Add this tempering to the prepared sambar and give a stir. Your sambar is ready to serve.

Having an antioxidant punch, this dal-based stew is high on vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, folate and magnesium. It is loaded with vegetarian protein and fibre. It is light on stomach and easy to digest.

Sambar is a complete dish. Sour, spicy and soothing – the refreshing flavours of sambar are a nationwide phenomenon.