South Indian Sambhar


Sambhar is a very popular South Indian vegetable stew/broth/curry.. whatever you might want to call it..  Subtly sour, full of vegetables, low calorie, and the greatest accompaniment to rice

This dish has so many different ways of making depending upon where it’s made. This recipe right here is how my mother makes it, without using those boxed sambhar masala’s. I don’t really like that flavour, and this is how I have eaten this dish forever. No, I’m not some sambhar purist and It’s entirely up to you to use a packaged masala.. But this is the way I roll, or rather my mom did, and trust me you have to taste this to know how fantabulous this actually is.


Vegetables!! The main ingredient. I have used beans, green peppers, brinjals. You can easily use any vegetables you like, drumsticks, cauliflowers etc etc.. whatever you want- the onions and tomatoes are a must.


these are 200 gms of pigeon peas (split toor dal). These form the base of our sambhar.


Into a deep pot, put in all the ingredients. The chopped vegetables, the lentils and add the water. This will be 600mls of water.


Now the spices. 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder. (hing)


1 tsp turmeric powder. It does bring out the yellow, and oh boy, yellow it is.


salt- a little short of 1 tbsp. It’s a lot of sambhar, and under salted food is vile.


Mix them all together now and put it on a boil. We need the vegetables to be well cooked, in fact softened and almost not blended. Also the lentils do take some time to cook. I boiled them for about 40 minutes.


Now for part 2. and this is what makes this dish truly South Indian. These spices, sort of form the soul of this food. I have here 4 cloves of garlic. 1 tbsp of coriander seeds, 2 tsps fenugreek seeds, 1/2 cup shredded coconut.- If miraculously you happen to have fresh coconut, then nothing like it.


Into a very hot tablespoon of oil, add in the garlic cloves


Going next are the coriander seeds and the fenugreek.


in goes the shredded coconut


keep frying them all together until the mixture turns brown, like so. Now this is when your house house will smart smelling like a spice incense. It’s heaven I tell you.


Into a blender they go. Mix in about 1 tbsp of water so that everything comes together beautifully.


This is what the blend looks like.


Now if you wish to make your dish more spicy, add in some ground red chillies (completely optional). usually one adds dried red chillies before blending, but since my husband is not a friend of the spicy stuff, I like to do this to control the chilli.


The final blend.


The last in line of taste and aromatics. I have some curry leaves. It’s a handful really. But in case you have the fresh stuff 8-10 leaves will do. Also 1 tbsp of tamarind paste. This tamarind gives the sambhar its distinct subtly sour taste.


The unveiling of the vegetables and lentils. I cooked them for about 40 minutes and this is how they turned out. The vegetables were soft and mushy in golden yellow curry and the salt was just fine.


Remember the blend from the coconut etc. .. well, it’s time for it to meet its destiny. In it goes in the lentil and vegetables mixture.


the curry leaves go in.


Finally the last ingredient- the sour tamarind paste. This all needs to cook again for another 10 minutes, before you serve it piping hot with rice.


Here we go- the moment of TRIUMPH. Doesn’t this look gorgeous? It tastes even better. The best part about this recipe is that it’s not heavy, its not very oily and it can be eaten just like that- as a sort of soup. I love it, and so will you..Enjoy !!!!!


200 gms of pigeon peas (split toor dal)

chopped vegetables of your choice.

1 thinly chopped medium sized onion

1 thinly chopped medium sized tomato.

600 mls water

1/2 tsp asofoetida (hing)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp coriander seeds

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 tsps fenugreek seeds

1/2 tsp crushed red chillies (optional)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 tbsp oil.

8-10 curry leaves

1 tbsp tamarind paste.

In a deep pan mix the chopped vegetables, onion, tomato, water, asofoetida, salt and turmeric. Cook them on medium flame for about 35-40 minutes (covered) or until the lentils are cooked and the vegetables mushy.

In a separate pan, heat the oil, tip in the garlic, fenugreek and coriander seeds, coconut. Fry until it’s all golden brown. Once these spices are golden and fragrant, blend them with a tbsp of water. Add crushed chillies as per taste- they’re completely optional.

Into the pot of cooked lentils and vegetables, add the blend of spices, the curry leaves and the tamarind paste.

Cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve warm.


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