Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See Part 1 has four methods for cooking basic, classic seasoned sambar. This is the fourth method that she describes for that dish.
Are you wondering what defines a sambar? You might like to read this post that answers that question. If you like to explore sambars, you could browse all sambar recipes, kuzhambu recipes, and these helpful posts – Sambar, Method One, Method Three, and Method Four.
For how to cook vegetables for sambar, read On cooking Vegetables for Sambar. For making sambar powders, go to Sambar Powders and a Simple Sambar. Finally this one will also help – Sambar – hot, sour or salty?. A lot of info for a simple dish
This recipe is different to Methods One, Two and Three in that its secret is a powder of chillies and coriander that is added near the end. Before you begin, it is useful to browse the links above. If you want to read more, the complete list of sambar and kuzhambu recipes is here.
Seasoned Sambar Method FOUR a la S. Meenakshi Ammal
Source : adapted from Method Four, Seasoned Sambar in Cook and See Part 1, by S. Meenakshi Ammal
Cuisine: South Indian
Prep time: 15 mins or so
Cooking time: 30 mins + time of cooking the toor dal (anything from 30 mins to 1.5 hrs depending on your tool dal)
Serves: 4 people
2/3 cup Red Gram Dal = Toor Dal
1 large Tblspn Tamarind pulp
1 tspn salt or to taste
0.5 tspn rice flour or chickpea flour
6 dried red chillies, depending on heat and your preference.
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
0.5 tspn black mustard seeds
3 tspn Gingelly Oil or Ghee. Gingelly Oil is Indian Sesame Oil (a very light sesame oil without a sesame taste). Use ghee or vegetable oil if you can’t get Indian Sesame Oil
1 pinch asafoetida
0.33 tspn Turmeric powder
1 cup chopped vegetable (see below)
for chilli powder
6 dried red chillies
1.5 tspns coriander seeds
Vegetables like carrot, pumpkin, french beans, runner beans, cluster beans, eggplant, okra, chow chow and drumstick can be used. It is best to use only one vegetable. Prepare the vegetable by washing and cutting into chunks or lengths. ADD THESE VEGETABLES WHEN THE TAMARIND IS ADDED.
If you prefer, you can briefly par-boil any harder vegetables, like eggplant, okra, pumpkin or any of the beans before using in the recipe. ADD THESE VEGETABLES BEFORE ADDING THE TAMARIND.
You can also use Amaranth stems, radish, white radish or onions, which can be par-boiled in a little water along with the tamarind water before adding to the recipe AT THE POINT THE TAMARIND IS USUALLY ADDED. (Add the cooking water as well). Don’t add extra tamarind to the recipe.
Or Amaranth stems, radish, runner beans, cluster beans or pumpkin can be cooked separately with a little salt, drained an ADDED AFTER ADDING THE TAMARIND.
Wash the dal. Boil about 4 cups water, add the dal and 1 tspn gingelly oil or ghee. Cover with a lid and cook until a very soft mass. Add more water as it cooks if needed. It will take at least 30 mins and up to 90 mins to cook until very soft, depending on the age and dryness of the dal.
Towards the end of cooking, add the turmeric powder.
When the dal is cooked, mash it a little with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Put the dal aside while you prepare the vegetables and spices.
Meanwhile, roast 6 dried red chillies or to taste, and 1.5 tspns coriander seeds in a dry pan. Grind to a powder in a spice grinder or small processor. Set aside.
Prepare the tamarind by soaking in hot water for 15 minutes and then straining to remove seeds while retaining the tamarind thick pulp. Put aside.
Take 6 more dried red chillies. Saute in ghee with the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds.
Check when your vegetables should be added to the sambar – either now, with the next step or after the next step.
Strain the tamarind water, removing the seeds and strings and keeping the pulp, and add to the spices with the salt.
By now the vegetables are added, so add enough cooking water to make a soupy consistency. Stir, cover and cook on medium-low heat until the vegetables are cooked.
Now add the spice and vegetable mix to the dal and mix very well. Allow the sambar to boil well for 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the coriander-chilli powder that you ground earlier on. Mix it well.
Take off the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and curry leaves.
Note on Tomatoes: You can add ripe tomatoes after combining the vegetables and the dal. You can even use green tomatoes, but reduce the tamarind a little if you use green ones. Add them after frying off the spices, before adding the tamarind and vegetables.
Alternatively, chop some ripe tomatoes finely and add to the dal at the end of cooking, after the coriander-chilli powder is added.
Note: Always consider the heat and size of your chillies (dried for red and fresh for green) when selecting how many you will use in the recipe. If you are using large dried red chillies, reduce to 4 for the powder and 4 for the sambar.
Green chillies are optional and may be replaced by red chillies.
If you use more toor dal than specified, the sambar will be thick enough without the need for rice flour or chickpea flour.
If masalas are liked, saute in ghee or gingelly oil: 1 tspn poppy seeds, 0.5 tspn anise, 2 cm cinnamon stick, 4 cloves and 4 cardamon pods, and add for extra flavour to the sambar.