Idli/ sambar breakfast combo, is a hot favorite of not only South Indians but also of people from other parts of India. My mother always made idli and chutney, sambar was made occasionally, mostly during festivals, birthdays (pirannals),or if we had guests and all. So sambar was always special for us! I am always mesmerized by the aroma, especially that of asafeotida that arises while making sambar. I used to sniff around my mother’s kitchen and for me, if it smells good, it would taste good too!
The vegetables most commonly used for preparing sambar are potato, winter melon, onion, carrot, cucumber, brinjal, snake gourd, drumstick, tomato and amara payar/hyacinth bean. You could even add vegetables like pumpkin, okra, elephant yam, raw banana, tindora/kovakka, beans etc, if you are short of other vegetables and to make your kids eat veggies. There are many different ways by which you can make sambar. The Trissur style sambar is made using roasted coconut paste (varutharacha sambar) and there are different kinds of sambar like ulli sambar, okra sambar, drumstick sambar, white radish sambar etc. There is variation even in adding spice powders. Some people add them while cooking the vegetables and some add it after the vegetables are cooked since they say that their aroma will be lost if you add it while cooking the vegetables. I usually add lots of vegetables to sambar but I have heard that sambar ought to have more of gravy than vegetables and that it should not be too concentrated. The recipe for sambar varies region-wise and religion-wise like all other curries. Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients (Serves 5 – 6)
1. Toor dal/ thuvaraparippu – 3/4 cup
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – To taste
Water – As required
2. Mixed vegetables – 3 cups ( I used potato, carrot, snake gourd, drumstick, onion, yellow cucumber (vellarikka), brinjal and tomato. Cut the drumsticks into 2” pieces and slice them. Wash and cut the other veggies into large cubes. You can use okra/ vendakka also. Cut 2 okra into 1.5 inch pieces, if using).
Onion / savola – 1 small, diced
Shallots – 6 (It gives a special taste to the sambar. You can use more of them if you are not using big onion)
Green chilies – 2 – 3, slit
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – To taste
6. Sambar powder – 1 tbsp
Red chilly powder – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 2.5 tsp
Fenugreek powder – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida/hing – 2 – 3 pinches
7. Tomato – 2 small
8. Tamarind – Goose berry sized (Soaked in enough warm water)
9. Curry leaves – 1- 2 sprigs
10. Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Dry red chilies – 3, broken
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Shallots – 4, sliced
11. Salt – To taste
1. Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker adding turmeric powder, sufficient water and salt. Meanwhile soak the tamarind in warm water (around 1/3 cup) and extract its juice.
2. Now add the cut vegetables(except tomato and okra/vendakka), 4-5 whole shallots, green chilies, curry leaves along with sufficient water(2 cups), turmeric powder and salt. Cook for 1 whistle.
3. In another pan saute the okra in oil until its almost cooked.The okra has to be cooked separately before adding to sambar otherwise it will make the whole thing slimy.
4. When the pressure releases, open the cooker and add the tamarind juice, tomatoes and okra. Bring it to a boil.
5. Meanwhile heat oil in pan and splutter the mustard seeds. Then add the dry red chilies, sliced shallots and brown them. Add some curry leaves, bring down the heat and add the masala powders ( ingredients numbered 6) and cook for a minute over low heat (to remove their raw smell) . Pour this seasoning over the sambar and mix well. Bring it to a boil and switch off. Add few cilantro sprigs. Serve hot sambar with steamed rice or idli / dosa after 15 – 20 mts.