Have you ever been to any city in South India? If you try and drown out the crowd, the vehicles and the noise, close your eyes and breathe deeply while walking past a foodie place, your senses will be taken for a wicked ride and a smile is bound to appear on your face. If you’ve ever walked past ANY South Indian Restaurant, you will remember the unmissable aroma I am referring to. The aroma reminds me of home. Any number of vegetables (usually whatever was left over in the house!) gently simmering away in a stew that would make anyone’s mouth-water in an instant. Ever wondered what this aroma belongs to? Look no further, I introduce you to Sambhar!
Sambhar is usually made out of shallots (Chinna Vengayam) , carrots or drumsticks (Murungaikkai) but like I said, literally any vegetable you have lying around will do! It goes with pretty much anything, rice, dosa, chapatti and all sorts! There are several different ways of making it too but this is my preferred method because it doesn’t involve grinding! haha. Lazy life = Easy life!
Sambhar is widely mixed with plain boiled rice and eaten with a “side dish” which is predominantly a vegetable or meat dish with little or no gravy. You can either do the tempering right at the beginning or right at the end. I prefer to do the tempering at the end because when the hot tempered whole spices meets the liquid Sambhar, the sizzling sound is a treat for the ears and the fusion of flavours that rise gently and fill the house is a treat for the nose!
So what’ll you need?
1 cup of chopped vegetables, I have used Shallots and Drumsticks
½ cup dry Toor dal, washed
1 tsp Sambhar Powder (Please see link to make Sambhar powder if you don’t have it in stock)
1 Tomato, chopped
¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
A small ball of tamarind fruit (soaked and juice extracted), or ½ tsp of tamarind concentrate paste
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish
A little Ghee
1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½tsp Urad Dal
½ tsp Channa Dal
A few dried Curry Leaves
1 dried Red Chilli
A pinch of Asafoetida (Hing)
Instant Pot Method:
In the bottom of the inner pot, place ½ cup dry toor dal, turmeric powder and 2 cups water.
Insert the trivet over the dal. On top of the trivet, in another vessel, place the chopped vegetables including the tomato, Sambhar Powder, tamarind extract and 2 cups of water. Add a little salt.
Put the lid on, turn the knob to sealing, set on manual high pressure for 10 minutes. NPR.
Open the lid once the pressure pin has dropped. Remove the inner vessel with the Sambhar and set aside.
Using a potato masher or a hand blender, mash the cooked toor dal thoroughly. Pour the Sambhar over the mashed toor dal and turn on sauté mode.
Mix well and sauté until you’ve reached your desired consistency, this should be a thick liquid and not too runny like water. Cancel sauté mode.
Remove and set aside.
Rinse the inner pot and wipe clean. Now back to sauté mode. Add the ghee, once hot, add the mustard seeds followed by urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves, hing and dried chilli. Fry for no more than 20 seconds or until the dal have turned a light pink colour. Remove from heat, pour on top of the Sambhar, garnish with the coriander leaves and serve with hot boiled rice.
Stove Top Method:
Boil the Toor dal with turmeric separately either in a pressure cooker (1:3 dal to water ratio and about 5 whistles) or on the hob, cook covered with plenty of water until mushy – about 20 minutes.
Once boiled, mash the toor dal and set aside.
In another sauce pan or any heavy based pan, heat 2 cups of water, the tamarind extract and the vegetables including tomatoes. Once it comes up to boiling heat, add the Sambhar powder, the toor dal and salt and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
In a tempering ladle or pan, heat the ghee. Add the mustard seeds followed by urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves, hing and dried chilli. Fry for no more than 20 seconds or until the dal have turned a light pink colour. Remove from heat, pour on top of the Sambhar, garnish with the coriander leaves and serve with hot boiled rice.