Sambar is a very popular South Indian stew, made of toor lentils, vegetables, tamarind and a special Sambar masala mix. This dish is defined by it’s unique taste – a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, sour and slightly nutty. It is one of my favourite lentil-based Indian dishes so I always make this in bulk so I can freeze half of it for a rainy day.
What makes Sambar what it is?
- The use of Toor Dal (also called Split Pigeon Peas) which are typical to the southern region of India.
- Sambar is packed full of veggies making this is a really nutritious meal. Typically veggies such as okra, aubergine, peas and tomatoes are used but really you could add any kind that you enjoy or that’s seasonal.
- Tamarind paste is added, bringing a delicious fresh tang to the whole dish and also helps to highlight the other flavours in the dish.
- Sambar masala – a unique blend of spices are toasted, ground and then cooked with a mix of vegetables.
- Like many Dals, tempered spices are stirred through at the end, giving a depth of flavour to the stew thanks to the layers of spices that are added at different steps.
Don’t be intimidated by what looks to be many steps and ingredients, it’s actually a very simple dish to create. You could of course use shop-bough Sambar powder in place of making your own Sambar masala which would speed things up. I tend to make a larger batch of Sambar powder as it will keep for a couple of months and can be added to all sorts of soups and kitchen experiments.