Drumsticks, such a funny name, are stick shaped vegetables that grow on a tree. They are funny, skinny, long vegetables with a hard outer covering that gives them the name drumsticks. You have to be in the know to eat this vegetable, as you would never guess it. There is a soft interior that is delicious. The pieces of drumsticks have to be picked up with the fingers, the exterior is squashed in the mouth and the tender interior can be scraped out with the teeth. You come to love this little procedure. The harder skin, once all flavour is extracted from it, is discarded on the side of the plate.
Drumsticks are particularly delicious in Sambar and Rasam. They are best bought fresh, but frozen drumsticks are readily available in Indian groceries if you can’t find them locally. This recipe is from the classic book Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine, such a great book of classic South Indian / Tamil traditional recipes. The method is somewhat different to Meenakshi Ammal’s seminal recipes from Cook and See, in that the tadka is added to the base gravy before the cooked dal is added. Ammal usually also includes tomatoes in her sambar as well, and thickens the dish with a little rice flour or besan at the end. I have added the thickening trick to the recipe as it really does add to the texture of the dish.
Murungakkai Sambar | Drumstick Sambar With Crushed Curry Leaves
0.5 cups toor dal
4 pieces of drumstick, about 3cm long
1.5 tspns thick tamarind pulp
pinch asafoetida powder
1.5 tspns sambar powder
8 curry leaves
1 Tblspn coriander leaves
sea salt to taste
0.25 tspn brown mustard seeds
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
1 tspn ghee
Cook the toor dal in 2 cups water over a medium heat until mushy.
Cook the drumsticks in a deep pot with 1 cup water, sambar powder and sea salt, and cook over a medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes. Don’t overcook the drumsticks, otherwise they become inedible.
Add the tamarind and asafoetida and stir gently for a couple of minutes.
Heat the ghee and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to pop, and add the fenugreek seeds. When they turn golden brown, pour the tadka into the gravy. Then add the cooked dal to the sambar and simmer over a medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the dish thickens a little.
Thicken the sambar with a little chickpea flour or rice flour mixed with water. Stir into the simmering sambar and stir for a minute or so until it thickens slightly.
Rinse the curry leaves so they are wet, crush them lightly in your hands, and stir into the sambar. Remove it from the heat and serve.