Sambhar or Sambar is a spicy and tangy South Indian lentil stew made with toor dal and mixed vegetables. It is served alongside idli, dosa, uttapam, and rice.
I love enjoying a big bowl of sambhar as a soup too! Warm and soupy, it is very comforting. Growing up in Jaipur, Rajasthan, we barely had any options of eating South Indian food. Since we liked it so much, mom learnt and started making dosa and idli batter at home. But it used to be once in 2 months or so. But whenever she would make fresh batter, for 2 days straight me and didi would only have Idli-sambar or dosa-sambhar or uttapam-sambar for all meals :-).
Till I remained in Rajasthan, South Indian cuisine for me was limited to just these three dishes. It was only after moving to Bombay and later to Bangalore that my horizons of South Indian cuisine widened. Such amazing stews, curries, chutneys, sabzis, and desserts! But Sambar (with idli or dosa or uttapam) still remains my favorite South Indian dish.
The key ingredients in sambhar are —
- Dal (lentil): Sambar is almost always cooked with toor dal (yellow pigeon pea lentils also known as arhar or tuva dal in Hindi). You can use a mix of toor and yellow moong dal as well or just use yellow moong dal to make sambhar.
- Mixed vegetables: Sambhar can be made with a lot of or very few vegetables. Use just one or use a mix of vegetables available to you. Common vegetables used in Sambar are pumpkin, okra, drumstick, shallots, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, bottle gourd, and beans.
- Tamarind (or another sour ingredients like lime)
- Sambar powder spice mix: While I usually buy one from the stores, all of my South Indian friends make their own Sambhar masala at home. I really need to learn it one day!
- A few more spices like curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, salt, etc.
There are many varieties of sambars across the different States in Southern India. In fact there are many ways of cooking even one kind of Sambhar. This is a simple and basic sambar recipe for someone who is new South Indian cooking. My mom has been making sambhar like this ever since and I love it and I stayed with this recipe for whenever I want to make sambar at home.
How to make Sambar at home
Ingredients (1cup = 240ml; 1tbsp = 15ml; 1tsp = 5ml)
- ½ cup Toor dal yellow pigeon peas
- 2 tbsps Oil
- 1 pinch Asafoetida
- 1 tsp Mustard seeds
- 1 dried Red Chili broken into two
- 4-5 Curry leaves
- 2 tbsps Tamarind paste
- 1 Green Chili slit lengthwise
- 1 cup Mixed vegetables (onions, tomatoes, carrots, and bottle gourd, chopped)
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- 3 tsp Sambar masala powder
- Wash and soak toor dal for about half hour in 2 cups of water
- Pressure cook the dal with salt and turmeric for 4 whistles. Set aside and allow the steam to escape on its own before opening the cooker. Alternatively you can also cook the dal in a stock pot.
- Heat oil in a kadhi/wok. Once the oil is hot add asafetida, mustard seeds, and dried chili.
- When the seeds begin to sputter, add the slit green chili and chopped vegetables. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Add salt, sambar powder, 1 cup water and tamarind paste. Mix well and cook covered on low heat till the vegetables are tender. It takes about 10 mins for the vegetables to cook.
- Add the cooked dal, mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Serve hot with Idli, dosa, uttapam, vada, or rice with some coconut chutney on the side.
- Nutritional information is the approximate value for 1 of 2 servings.
- Leftover Sambar can be refrigerated for 2-3 days.
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Ashima I was reading you intro n u have rightly said that kitchen is a haven. The pleasure is immense. Till the time I was in India I too would just buy the packet of ready made batter supplied by ladies. But now I do this myself since my little daughter loves dosas.
Hello Shella! 🙂
Isn’t it so! 🙂 I truly love the kitchen and all that one can create in there!
I used to make the batter when I was in US, but it’s so readily available and it’s fresh and good so I don’t really worry about the soaking and fermentation etc 🙂