Sambar is a spicy, sweet, succulent South Indian stew of lentil and mixed vegetables, a flavorsome curry accompanied by either idli, dosa, vada or rice. A few years back Sambar used to be defined as South Indian delicacy, confined only to the Southern states. But now there is a major change in trend more and more households all across India are including Sambar in their daily menu. The simplicity and taste profile of this dish has made a delicious reputation for itself among the food lovers.
While living in South India I discovered one secret about Sambar, which is it’s recipe and ingredients changes even from one neighborhood to another, every family has their own recipe of Sambar and Sambar Powder (see recipe here) passed on from one generation to another to carry forward the family legacy of cookery. After tasting a variety of Sambar in different places my taste buds like better the Chettinad Style Sambar, it is somehow not possible for me to follow the traditional recipe to prepare Sambar on a daily basis due to the crunch of time so I get settled with this quick sambar recipe. There could be infinite combinations of vegetables in mixed vegetable Sambar along with Split Pigeon Pea/Toor/ Arhar Dal but always prefer using vegetables which are pulpy, soft, does not have an overpowering taste and takes almost equal time to cook as lentil like ridge gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal and so on. Here is my simple and quick recipe of mixed vegetable sambar…
1 Cup pigeon pea lentil (arhar dal)
1 medium size ridge gourd/bottle gourd/brinjal
2 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 drumstick, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
6 – 8 sambar onions or 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
6 curry leaves
4 cloves of garlic, fine chopped
2 tbsp ghee
2 – 3 dry red chilies
A pinch of asafoetida
To prepare sambar, clean, wash and soak dal in water for 15 – 20 minutes.
While dal is soaked clean and chop the vegetables for the sambar.
Transfer dal to pressure cooker with chopped vegetable, tomato, turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt and 2 Cups of water.
Cook dal in in the pressure cooker for 2 – 3 whistles on medium to high flame. The dal should become soft and mushy. Turn off the heat and release the steam from the pressure cooker.
Open the lid of pressure cooker and add chopped drumstick. Stir well and once again pressure cook dal on medium to high flame till 1 whistle comes. Turn off the heat and let the steam release from the cooker on its own.
Remove the lid of pressure cooker and add the sambar powder, tamarind paste, jaggery. Stir to combine well if the consistency of sambar is thick, then add more water.
Transfer sambar to a saucepan and then simmer the sambar for 10-12 minutes on a low flame stirring regularly in between so that the dal does not stick to the bottom.
Meanwhile prepare tempering, in a small pan, heat ghee over medium heat. Add mustard seeds once they crackle add onion, garlic, red chilies, asafoetida and curry leaves.
Fry till the garlic turns a light brown and the onion turn translucent. Pour the whole tempering in the steaming hot sambar. Close with a lid so that the flavors infuse for about 5-6 minutes.