Sambar, a lentil stew very popular in India, is one of my favorite dishes. Over the past few years I've been learning to make some of the foods I most enjoy. I try to read many recipes and if it is a dish I eat at a restaurant, I try to pay close attention to what I enjoy (or sometimes dislike) about the dish. After aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower, Indian style), sambar is high on my list of favorite Indian dishes.
The third part of my recipe, the oil and spices added at the end, is derived from the one in the Laxmi's Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook. I really find this flavor to be so nice that I haven't varied it much. In looking at other recipes this does seem to be pretty standard, a few differences here and there (more chilies, some other spices).
DO make the effort to get toor dal and fresh kari leaves (I like shopping for Desi items at India-4-U)! These particular details are part of what will make this dish taste like Indian home cooking. There are many steps to this dish and one step involves hot oil (very exciting), it is entirely worth the effort. I am very pleased to share that my sambar leaves my co-workers from Chennai smiling and happy!
This makes a huge amount of sambar -- I often make it for office potlucks (like the one for Diwali this year). It freezes quite nicely too!
makes 4 quarts
Step One -- The Toor Dal
- 2 cups toor dal
- 5 cups water
The lentils are pre-cooked; half will be used immediately in the stew and will thicken it. The other half will be added at the end for more texture.
Step Two -- The Stew Base
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup carrot in 1/4" rounds
- 3 cup chopped cauliflower (Romanesco broccoli is also nice)
- 2 1/2 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes (yes, canned is OK, but if you have fresh, use them, it is worth the effort)
- 1 cup green beans, snapped into 1" pieces
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 2 teaspoon sea salt (more or less, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon cane sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Sambar Pudi
- 2 Tablespoons tamarind paste (e.g. Tamco Tamarind)
Step Three -- The Exciting Part!
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 dried, red chilies - stemmed, seeded and broken into 1" pieces (more or less of these to change the heat level of the stew)
- 30 fresh kari leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Simmer the sambar for at least 15 minutes more to allow the spices, lentils and vegetables come together. Stir in the remaining toor dal & fresh coriander and allow to simmer again for 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish with additional fresh coriander. Serve with rice, cream of wheat pilafs, and pappadum.