Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sambar - For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner

My mother being North Indian, the sambar we had at home was probably not the real thing. But what is real sambar

It's a dish made with a dal, some vegetables and some tamarind pulp. When everything is cooked, the dish is tempered with some mustard seeds, a couple of dried red chillies and some curry leaves. 
A sambar is served at breakfast with idlis, dosas or vadas.  
The sambar is the brown soupy thing in the bowls.
For lunch, in most South Indian States, a sambar is an almost must with rice, a dry vegetable dish, some pappadums, pickles and some dahi
Can you spot the sambar?
I've learned that sambar and other sour dishes are avoided at dinner but that might just be in Kerala or, perhaps, only practised in some households. 

Whilst travelling in the South, we discovered that restaurants rarely serve "meals" at night. Folks there now seem to prefer snack food for dinner. 

Traditionally, in Kerala, for example, kanji was popular.  

For a long time, I'd assumed that sambar was only ever made with arhar dal, although I've often used masoor dal. Masoor dal sambar is faster to cook and, perhaps, more nutritious and easier to digest. 

Well, basically, you need to boil the dal so well that it can be made into a paste. For a cup of dal you would need a cup or so of water if you're planning to cook it in a pressure cooker. Getting dal softened and well cooked can be a pain without a pressure cooker

I'd cook the dal for a couple of whistles or so and then add a dash of turmeric powder, some red chili powder to taste and salt. And I'd add chopped vegetables at this stage.

Some vegetables like shallots or onions, brinjals and others benefit from a slight sauteeing before being tossed in with the dal. 

I'd also add the tamarind water at this point. Let's assume I'd soaked a lime sized ball of tamarind in some warm water while I was washing the dal. I now squeeze the pulp and discard it, retaining the sour water thus produced.

Here's a recipe from the Prestige pressure cooker cookbook. 

Ingredients for Sambar
 1 cup tur dal 
¼ kg Madras onions/shallots 
1 or 2 drumsticks
A handful of some vegetables 
A pinch of methi/fenugreek seeds 
2 teaspoons Sambar powder 
1-2 Tbsps coriander powder
1 teaspoons Mustard seeds 
2-3 dried red chillies
A pinch of hing/asafoetida 
½ teaspoon turmeric powder or less (the taste can be overwhelming)
A few sprigs of curry leaves 
Tamarind – the size of a lime 
Oil for frying 
Salt to taste 

Saute the shallots in a bit of oil and add to the dal.

Place the dal in a container with 1½ cups of water and a pinch of turmeric powder and put it in the pressure cooker. Cook for 8 minutes.  When cool, remove the container and mash the dal with a spoon. 

Extract tamarind pulp by soaking it in water and squeezing. Boil the chopped vegetables in this until cooked.

Add to the dal with sambar powder, coriander powder, chili powder (if required) and salt to taste.  Simmer on a low fire until the sambhar thickens.  

Heat oil and add the mustard seeds and the methi seeds.  When they crackle, add red chillies, curry leaves and temper the sambhar with this.  Serve hot with rice. 

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