I love the food from Kerala from the appams to the avial, from the puttus to the kadala. I have been lucky enough to have a feast of the kerala cuisine many times in my life, especially on Onam and Vishu. Thanks to my mother who is a great cook, my father who is born and brought up in Kerala and a Keralite neighbour.
I have had sambar in many places, but I like this Kerala Sambar which my mom makes. She also makes the other varieties of sambar, but this one and the Malvani Kala Vatana Sambar tops my list.
I remember my office days…. when I would come from work and ask mom about the dinner. When she would mention that she had made sambar, I would feel so good. Those days, I would take more amount of rice than I usually took. I only need to have sambar with rice and kerala pappadums. Its one comfort food for me that I have always relished and cherished.
In fact, I would be the only one who would eat the left over sambar the next day. I would not have the other freshly made dishes but only sambar and rice.
It would be very selfish of me if I did not share this kerala sambar recipe with the readers of my blog. I hope you enjoy making this sambar and having it too.
This sambar recipe, makes use of mixed vegetables. You could use any vegetables you have or you like. I have used shallots, aubergines and okra. Since, I was also making beans upkari with potatoes, I did not add beans nor potatoes to the sambar. If you are interested to know more about the vegetables and ingredients used for making sambar, then this post is very helpful.
This recipe also calls for roasting the sambar masala and then grinding it. Trust me…. just making the fresh sambar masala is better than using readymade sambar powder. I also use readymade sambar powder, when I have to make a quick sambar dish. But in my experience, the sambar made with fresh, roasted ground spices taste very different than the one made with readymade sambar powder. If you have to use readymade sambar powder, than make your own sambar powder. It is much better than using the store bought ones.
The photographs for this kerala sambar recipe have come out very well. The same thing is applicable for the aloo gobi recipe. That because there was a great amount of sunlight in my kitchen on these days. It was not dark and dull as it always is in this season. I was surprised by these photographs. I usually avoid using flash, but for the recipes I cook in the night, I have to unavoidably use the flash settings in the camera. So for all the recipes, that I have cooked in the day, you will see no or some flash used for the pictures.
Kerala Sambar Recipe: Serves 3-4
Preparation Time: 15-20 mins
Cooking Time: 40-45 mins
Ingredients for the Sambar:
- 1½ or 1¾ cups of tuvar dal (arhar dal)
- 1 small onion, sliced or chopped
- a pinch or two of asafoetida (hing)
- 10-12 shallots
- 8-10 okra
- 5-7 aubergines (brinjal)
- 1 large tomato or 2 medium size tomatoes
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 3/4 cup tamarind pulp – made with 3/4 cup water and 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
For the tempering/tadka/chaunk/vaghar/phodni:
- 1 to 2 tbsp coconut oil or any vegetable oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp urad dal
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 2-3 dry red chillies ( I used small red bor chillies for the tadka)
For the Sambar Masala:
- ½ coconut, grated – will yield about 1 to 1½ cups of coconut
- 1 inch ginger, chopped
- 5-7 garlic flakes, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 12-15 curry leaves
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp hing
- ¼ tsp methi seeds
- 3-4 dry red chilies ( I used 2 kashmiri and 2 guntur red chillies)
- 2 to 3 tsp coconut oil or any vegetable oil
Method to make the sambar masala:
- On a skillet, tava or a shallow frying pan, heat up 2 or 3 tsp oil. Add all the onions and fry till they become light brown. Now add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute. Add the rest of the spice and fry till they are light brown. Now add the grated coconut and roast it with the rest of the spices till everything is browned and you get a fragrant aroma in your kitchen. Let this mixture cool.
- Once, cooled, grind this roasted spice mixture in the grinder with some water. This is how the sambar masala paste will look like.
To make the sambar:
- First, boil the tuvar dal till in a pressure cooker with the sliced or chopped onion and hing, till the dal is soft and well cooked. Mash the cooked dal slightly with a spoon when done.
- Chop all your vegetables. Add all the vegetables except for the okras (bhindi) to the cooked tuvar dal along with turmeric powder and some water. Give a nice stir to the entire mixture.
- Cook the dal with the vegetables until they are half cooked. This takes about 11-12 minutes.
- Now add the chopped okra, tamarind pulp, and the ground masala. Add some more water if the sambar has become thick.
- Add salt and give the sambar a rolling boil once and then simmer till the veggies are cooked. This will approximately take about 15-16 minutes.
- Close the flame when all the ingredients in the sambar have nicely infused with one another and you have a lovely sambar aroma pervading all around in your kitchen. Keep the sambar closed with a lid and move on to the next step of tempering the sambar. Ignore the frothy layer on top of the sambar. When you add the tempering all that disappears.
To prepare the tadka:
- In a pan or the tadka utensil, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add all the other ingredients and fry them till they become fragrant. Take care they do not get burnt. Please also ignore the black spots on the tempering utensil. How much I try, I simply cannot get rid of them.
Adding the tadka to the sambar:
- Once the tadka is ready, directly pour the hot tadka on the hot sambar.
- Immediately, cover the sambar with a lid and let it stay closed for some 5 minutes. We do this at home, so that the flavors and aroma of the tadka gets very well infused with the sambar or dal.
Serving the Sambar:
- Give the sambar a standing time of 2-3 hrs. The sambar tastes good when kept for some hours after making it. The taste of a freshly prepared sambar is different than the taste of a sambar which has been made a few hours ago.
- Serve the sambar with boiled rice and pappadums, accompanied by a side vegetable dish and a bowl of yogurt or raita. Enjoy
- If there is any leftover sambar, you could have it the next day with dosa, idli, medu vada or dal vada. But keep the leftover sambar in the fridge.
Few Tips for making Kerala Sambar Recipe:
- Do not directly add the aubergines in sambar. Chop them and keep them in salted water for 10-15 mins so that the bitter juices are extracted from them in the salted water.
- The souring agent we use in sambar is generally tamarind. If your tamarind is too sour, than you will have to increase the chillies and salt with it and vice versa. The tamarind, chillies and salt have to balance each other. I came across this tip in Chandra Padmanabhan’s book – Southern Spice: Delicious Vegetarian Recipes from South India. Its a nice book if you are looking for a variety of vegetarian recipes amongst the South Indian Cuisine. Fortunately, whenever I have made sambar, the tamarind has never been too tart and the sambar has never become too sour.
- If you do not have fresh coconut, you could substitute it for dessicated coconut.
- If you are using a lot of mixed vegetables, alter their amount ( that is do not use the quantity of vegetables mentioned in this post) so that there is a balance of the vegetables and dal in the sambar.
kerala sambar recipe details below: