Monday, November 8, 2010

#12 Kerala Sambhar

South Indian food is considered one of the spiciest of all Indian food. Meals are centered around rice or rice based entrees.  One of the popular gravies that goes really well alongside either steamed rice or rice based delicacies like idli, dosa or uttappam is Sambhar. Every South Indian cook has his/her own version of Sambhar. Sambhar is a piping hot soup-like lentil dish with a variety of vegetables and seasoned with whole spices and chillies. Along with Sambhar,  dry and curried vegetable and meat sides are served.  A host of chutneys, pickles and pappadams also accompany the rice at meals. This is my husband's all-time favorite, and one that I have made many times over for him. 

He claims his mother's Sambhar is the best and I believe my Mom makes the best one. So, I have incorporated a few flavors from both families and now we love the so called "enhanced" version. A Sambhar combines all the ingredients for a complete meal--- when eaten with rice. The savory tanginess of the tamarind, lentils and finish it off with a sizzle and pop of the mustard, chillies, curry leaves at the end.   The lentils and vegetables include the protein and veggies needed for a meal making it a soupy wholesome delight for the palate.

My grandmother and mother used a combination of Cucumber, Okra, Arbi, Drumstick, Eggplant, Tomatoes and Pearl Onions. My MIL on the other hand used more Toor Dal and no Tomatoes at all. I have replaced some of the vegetables with my own favorites.

 Toor Dal(split yellow peas)- 1 cup
 Any kind of Sambhar Powder( I use either Eastern or MTR brand)-2 Tblspn
Indian Eggplant-1
Okra- 10
Cucumber-1 or Pumpkin- 4 " square
Baby Onions- 10 peeled and cored.
Onion- 1/4 chopped fine for tempering
Tamarind pulp- 2 tspn
Green Chillies-3
Tomato chopped- 1 fresh or 1 can
Mustard Seeds- 1 tsp
Methi Seeds-1/4 tspn
Dried red chilli-2
Asafoetida powder 1/2 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Curry Leaves- 2 sprigs
Ghee for tempering
Salt to taste.
a little jaggery- 1/4 tspn
Oil as needed

1. Pressure cook the Toor dal and baby onions in a pressure cooker until the toor dal is soft. Keep aside.
2. Cut the Okra into 1 inch pieces and stir fry in a little oil keep aside.
3. In a deep pot, add the potato, cucumber/pumpkin, carrot and eggplant cut into large cubes.  Add green chillies and tomato. Add the salt and then Haldi and Sambar Powder.
4. Cook on medium fire until the potato is cooked. Add the Okra and let cook slightly. Add the dal, asafoetida and jaggery and let it boil for 3 minutes. Remove from fire.
5. Place a small saucepan on the fire and add some oil(1 Tblspn) add the mustard seeds, break the red chillies and add them and  lastly the methi seeds.
6. When the mustard seeds splutter add the curry leaves and 1/4 chopped onion and saute. When the onion turns brown turn the fire off and add the tempering over the Sambhar and stir to mix well.

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