Drumstick Sambar (Murungakkai Sambar)

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This Drumstick Sambar is a tasty lentil stew made with tender moringa pods (known as drumsticks), pigeon pea lentils, onions, tomatoes, sambar powder and herbs. Drumstick is also called as Murungakkai in Tamil language and hence this healthy stew is also referred to as Murungakkai Sambar. Make this dish as a main course to be served with steamed rice or as a side dish with idli, dosa, medu vadai or uttapam.

drumstick sambar served in a white bowl

About This Drumstick Sambar

Drumsticks also know as Murungakkai in Tamil and Sahjan ki Phalli in Hindi are the pods of the moringa plant. They are regularly used to make a variety of recipes in Indian cuisine.

Drumsticks always make it on my weekly shopping list as they are nutritious and easy to prepare. I also sometimes make this tasty Drumstick Curry too.

Drumstick sambar is a variation of the South Indian sambar made with drumsticks as the hero veggie. A Sambar is lentil and vegetable stew and it has many variants. This dish features drumsticks cooked with blended lentils and spices.

This recipe uses homemade Sambar Powder. To make the best-tasting sambar I like to use homemade sambar powder but if you have a favorite brand of sambar powder, then you can use it too.

Add this delicious savory dish to your menu because it is versatile and can be served with rice, Idli, Dosa, Medu Vadai or Uttapam. If you are making the sambar for idli or dosa, then it should have a medium consistency. Alternatively, if you are making it for rice then add less water to make a slightly thick sambar.

murungakkai sambar served in a white bowl
Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Drumstick Sambar

Cooking Lentils

1. Rinse ⅓ cup of tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils) a couple of times in water. Add the lentils to a 2-liter pressure cooker.

You can also cook the lentils in a pot on the stovetop or in an Instant pot.

rinsed pigeon pea lentils

2. Add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.

pigeon pea lentil with turmeric

3. Then add 1.25 to 1.5 cups of water.

pigeon pea lentil in water

4. Mix well. Then cover and cook the lentils for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes on medium heat.

pigeon pea lentil cooked in pressure cooker

5. Once the pressure falls down on its own then only open the lid and check the lentils. They should be cooked completely and mushy. Mash the lentils with a spoon or wired whisk. Then cover with the lid and set aside.

mashed cooked dal

Making Tamarind Pulp

5. Meanwhile in a bowl soak ½ tablespoon of tamarind and ¼ cup of warm or hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Also, prep and chop the veggies and set them aside.

soaked tamarind in a bowl

6. Squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp in the water and set the tamarind pulp aside.

tamarind pulp in a bowl

Cooking Drumsticks

8. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add ⅓ cup of pearl onions or ⅓ cup of chopped onions or shallots. The pearl onions can be kept whole or halved.

Tip: I prefer to use sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds also called as gingelly oil. You can also use coconut oil, sunflower oil or any neutral-tasting oil.

oil and shallots in a pan

9. Stir and sauté pearl onions until the onions become translucent or the edges become lightly golden. If you are using onions sauté them until they turn translucent.

sautéed shallots

10. Add ⅓ cup of chopped or diced tomatoes.

chopped tomatoes, onions and oil

11. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.

sauteed tomatoes, onions and oil

12. Add 2 to 3 drumsticks or 175 grams of slightly peeled and chopped drumsticks (into 2.5 to 3 inches batons or sticks) to the pan. Try to use drumsticks that are fresh, tender and green for the best taste and flavor.

drumsticks, tomatoes, onions and oil

13. Mix well.

mixed drumsticks, tomatoes, onions and oil

14. Add 1 cup of water and 1 pinch of turmeric powder. Mix again.

drumsticks, tomatoes, onions, water and turmeric

15. Cover the pan and cook drumsticks on a low to medium heat.

drumsticks cooking on low flame

16. Check the drumsticks from time to time.

 drumsticks cooking

17. The drumsticks should be cooked well and tender, but make sure that they do not get overcooked.

cooked drumsticks

Making Drumstick Sambar

18. Once the drumsticks are cooked and tender then add the tamarind pulp.

tamarind pulp

19. Add the cooked mashed lentils. Also, add 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of sambar powder. Feel free to add less or more sambar powder depending on your preferred taste.

sambar powder in sauce

20. Stir and mix very well.

sambar powder mixed with sauce

21. Season with salt to taste.

salt added

22. Simmer drumstick sambar on low to medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes. The raw aroma of tamarind should go away.

simmering sambar

23. After simmering for 6 to 7 minutes switch off the heat. Cover the pan and set it aside.

simmering sambar sauce

Making Tempering

24. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil (preferably sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds) in a small pan or tadka pan. 

Add ½ a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Set the heat to a low while tempering so that the spices do not get burnt.

tempering mustard seeds

25. Allow the mustard seeds to crackle.

crackling mustard seeds

26. Once the mustard seeds crackle add 1 to 2 dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed), 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds and 10 to 12 curry leaves. Mix well.

red chilies, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves

27. Quickly add 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing).

 red chilies, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and hing

28. Mix again and fry for 2 to 3 seconds until the curry leaves become crisp.

 red chilies, fenugreek seeds, crisp curry leaves and hing

29. Switch off the heat and add the tempering mixture to the drumstick sambar immediately.

tempering mixture added in sambar

30. Cover and leave the flavors to infuse for 4 to 5 minutes.

cooked sambar in a pot with closed lid

31. Serve drumstick sambar with idli, dosa, medu vada or steamed rice. Feel free to garnish murungakkai sambar with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) before serving.

murungakkai sambar served in a white bowl

Expert Tips

  • Dal (Lentils): Try to use unpolished tur dal for a good flavor. You can also use moong dal or equal proportions of tur dal and masoor dal (orange lentils). It is also important to make sure that the lentils are fully cooked before mashing. This will ensure that you get a smooth consistency.
  • Sambar powder: The quality of the sambar powder will effect the taste of the sambar. Use homemade sambar powder or a good brand of sambar powder for the best flavors.
  • Drumsticks: The fresher the better for this recipe! I like to buy fresh drumsticks every week so I usually use some to make this recipe. Use drumsticks that are green in color, unbruised and tender for the best results.
  • Oil: My go-to oil for this recipe is sesame seed oil because it has delicious nutty notes and is traditionally used in the Tamil Nadu cuisine. If you don’t have sesame seeds or oil feel free to use coconut oil, sunflower oil or any neutral tasting oil of your choice.
  • Batch: Half, double, or triple this recipe depending on the number of people you want to feed.

FAQs

What can I serve drumstick sambar with?

Serve this mouth-watering dish with steamed rice, dosa, idli, uttapam or medu vada. You can also garnish drumstick sambar with cilantro before serving.

What is a drumstick?

Drumsticks are green pods from the moringa plant and are regularly used to make a variety of recipes in Indian cuisine. Both the moringa leaves and drumsticks are considered to be superfood. They are easy to find in India. If you live outside India, you can find them in Indian stores.

What is sambar powder?

Sambar powder is a unique and special ground spice mixture or spice blend that is specifically used to make sambar – a lentil and vegetable stew with complex flavors. It usually includes spices and herbs like coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves and lentils like urad dal and chana dal. To make this spice mix you need to roast the ingredients separately in a small pan and later grind them into a fine powder.

What I can use instead of tamarind?

If you have tamarind sauce, use about 1 teaspoon of it or as required to get the preferred tangy taste in the sambar. Alternatively use about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and add it once the dish has completed cooking. Do note that lemon juice gives a different tangy taste to the drumstick sambar than tamarind.

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drumstick sambar in white bowl

Drumstick Sambar (Murungakkai Sambar)

5 from 5 votes
This Drumstick Sambar is a tasty lentil stew made with tender moringa pods (known as drumsticks), pigeon pea lentils, onions, tomatoes, sambar powder and herbs.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Cuisine South Indian, Tamil Nadu
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Diet: Vegan
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For cooking lentils

  • cup tur dal (pigeon pea lentils or arhar dal)
  • 1.25 to 1.5 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)

For tamarind pulp

  • ½ tablespoon tamarind
  • ¼ cup hot water

Other ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or coconut oil or any neutral tasting oil
  • cup pearl onions (shallots) or ⅓ cup chopped onions
  • cup diced tomatoes or 1 small to medium tomato
  • 2 to 3 drumsticks (murungakkai) or 175 grams drumsticks, peeled and chopped in 3 to 4 inches pieces
  • 1 pinch turmeric powder
  • 1.5 to 2 tablespoons sambar powder or add as required
  • 1 cup water
  • salt as required

For tempering

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or coconut oil or any neutral tasting oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 dry red chilies – broken and seeds removed
  • 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves – chopped or whole

For garnish: (optional)

  • 1 to 2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

Instructions

Cooking Lentils

  • Rinse tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils) a couple of times in water. Take the lentils in a 2 litre pressure cooker.
  • Add turmeric powder and water.
  • Mix well. Then cover and pressure cook the lentils for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes on medium heat.
  • When the pressure settles falls down on its own, then only open the lid and check the lentils. They should be completely cooked and mushy. Mash the lentils with a spoon or wired whisk. Cover and keep aside.

Making tamarind pulp

  • Meanwhile in a bowl soak the tamarind in warm or hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Then later squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp in the water. Keep this tamarind pulp aside.

Cooking drumsticks

  • In a pan, heat oil (preferably sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds). Add pearl onions or chopped onions or shallots.
  • Stir and sauté pearl onions till the onions turn translucent or the edges start to turn light golden. For onions, sauté them till they turn translucent.
  • Add chopped or diced tomatoes. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Now add drumsticks and mix well. The drumsticks have to be slightly peeled and chopped into 2.5 to 3 inches batons or sticks.
  • Then add water and turmeric powder. Stir and mix again.
  • Cover the pan and cook the drumsticks on a low to medium heat.
  • In between do check when the drumsticks are cooking.
  • The drumsticks should be cooked well and tender, but take care that they do not get overcooked.

Making drumstick sambar

  • Once the drumsticks are cooked and tender, add the tamarind pulp.
  • Then add the cooked and mashed lentils. Also add sambar powder. Stir and mix very well.
  • Season with salt as per taste.
  • Simmer drumstick sambar on low to medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes. The raw aroma of tamarind should go away.
  • After simmering for 6 to 7 minutes, switch off the heat. Cover the pan and keep aside.

Making tempering

  • Heat oil (preferably sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds) in small frying pan or tadka pan. Add mustard seeds. Keep the heat to a low while tempering spices. 
  • Let the mustard seeds crackle.
  • When the mustard seeds crackle, then add dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed), fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Mix well.
  • Quickly add asafoetida (hing).
  • Mix again and fry till the curry leaves become crisp.
  • Switch off the heat and immediately add the tempering mixture in drumstick sambar.
  • Cover and let the flavors infuse for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Then serve drumstick sambar with idli or dosa or medu vada or steamed rice. While serving you can garnish the sambar with some chopped coriander leaves.

Notes

  • Use green-colored fresh and tender drumsticks pods for best taste and flavor in the dish.
  • Instead of tamarind, you can add about 1 teaspoon lemon juice at the end, once the dish has completed cooking.
  • Sambar powder can be added more or less depending upon its quality and strength. It is best is to use homemade sambar powder or you can use your favorite brand.
  • You can also make this dish with yellow moong lentils or a mix of tur dal and masoor dal (orange lentils).
  • The recipe can be scaled to make a small batch or a big batch.
  • The consistency of this murungakkai sambar can be adjusted to make it slightly thin, medium or thick by altering the proportions of water.

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Drumstick Sambar (Murungakkai Sambar)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 147 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 302mg13%
Potassium 254mg7%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 305IU6%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 29mg145%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 164mg199%
Vitamin E 3mg20%
Vitamin K 3µg3%
Calcium 209mg21%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 314µg79%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 34mg9%
Phosphorus 62mg6%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Drumstick Sambar post from the blog archives first published in May 2018 has been updated on 12 August 2021.

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Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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