I’ve made a lot of sambhar, but I figured my family might be all turkey-ed out after Christmas and no-meat-Mondays weren’t quite good enough. So I introduced my family to masala dosa and, more importantly, to sambhar.
- Sambar Powder
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
2-4 small red chilies (or less if you’re really a wimp)
1 1/2 tsp chana dal or toor dal
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 lime sized ball Tamarind soaked in hot water for 45 minutes (about 1 cup boiling water over top)
1 cup Toor Dal (or red lentils)
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 3/4 teaspoons oil
Salt to taste
5 small dry red chilies (or less if you’re a wimp)
8 Curry Leaves (you can use basil if you don’t have curry leaves)
1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp grated (or ground) asafoetida (optional, but so important for digestion)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 large tomato
2 tablespoons sambar powder (the leftover powder from the recipe above can be kept for 6 months, but try to use it sooner rather than later)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 cups of a vegetable(s) of your choice like green beans, chopped carrot, or zucchini (I used carrot). Basically whatever you have.
Make the sambhar powder by heating the whole spices, chilies, and lentils in a small skillet over medium until fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Then grind them in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle and mix with the ground spices in a bowl. Set aside. If you don’t have the whole spices you can use ground ones, but don’t toast them. Expect the dish to be less good…
Measure and chop everything for the sambhar in advance. Read through the rest of the directions and put all the spices and other ingredients together that get added at the same time.
Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water for 20 minutes. Press the tamarind through a fine-mesh sieve or just squeeze the pulp away from the fibres with your hands. Add some of the soaking water a little by little to get about 1 cup of juice/pulp. I usually just soak the whole square of tamarind you find at the store in plastic and then divide the squeezed pulp in half before adding enough soaking liquid to make a cup. Then freeze the half you don’t use and you don’t have to go through this messy process the next time you make something Thai or Indian.
Choose a heavy cooking pot. Wash the dal in cold water and remove any stones or anything that looks like it doesn’t belong in your belly or in the pot. Boil 2 cups of water and add the dal, turmeric powder and 3/4 teaspoon of oil. As the dal boils, skim off the foam and discard. Boil until the dal is soft and then mash it coarsely. If you need to, add some more water so the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you use a pressure cooker it will take about 5 minutes, but who has a pressure cooker these days?
In a separate pan, heat to medium and add the remaining teaspoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chilies, mustard seeds, fenugreek and curry leaves in one go and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onion and brown lightly. Add the tamarind pulp and juice (the 1 cup) and let boil lightly until the onions are cooked. Add this mixture to the dal with the asafoetida, tomato, vegetable of choice and sambar powder. Allow this to boil for 5 to 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Garnish with cilantro.
Eat with dosa.
Swear allegiance to chili peppers.