Idli sambar is a super delicious hotel style tiffin sambar that is served with idli. Apart from idli, this sambar can also be served with dosa, vada and Pongal. The hallmark of this idli sambar recipe is the addition of freshly roasted and ground spices. Tomatoes are also added and is a key ingredient in this recipe which gives a good taste in the sambar.
¼cuparhar dal(husked and split tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils)
¼cupmasoor dal(husked and split red lentils)
¼teaspoonturmeric powder(ground turmeric)
1.25 to 1.5cupswater for pressure cooking- for a 2 litre cooker
2tablespoonsoil(gingelly oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)
1teaspoonurad dal(husked and split black lentil)
4 to 5curry leaves
For cooking veggies
1large onionor 10 to 12 pearl onions or shallots or 90 to 100 grams onions
3medium tomatoesor 220 to 230 grams tomatoes
1 to 2drumsticks- scraped and chopped in 2 to 3 inch pieces
6 to 7green beans or flat beans- chopped
1medium potato- optional
4 to 5okra- chopped
6 to 7small brinjals(baingan or eggplant) or 80 to 100 grams
1 to 1.25cupswater or add as required
salt as required
For tamarind pulp
¼ to ⅓ cup warm or hot water
For sambar powder
5kashmiri chilies or byadagi/bedgi chiliesor 4 to 5 dry red chilies - reduce depending upon the heat in the chilies
11 to 12large curry leavesor 16 to 18 small curry leaves
1tablespoonchana dal(split and husked bengal gram)
½teaspoonwhole black pepper
¼teaspoonfenugreek seeds(methi dana)
2teaspoonsoil(gingelly oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)
1cup water to be added later or add as required
few coriander leaves for garnish
Cooking the lentils
Rinse both the lentils well and then add them in a 2 litre pressure cooker with 1.25 to 1.5 cups water and ¼ tsp turmeric powder.
Pressure cook the lentils for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes until the lentils have softened and well cooked.
You can also cook the lentils in a pan on a stove top or in the instant pot. I recommend to soak the lentils for about 30 minutes in enough water prior to cooking them in a pan. This helps in the faster cooking of the lentils.
Once the pressure settles down naturally in the cooker, open the cooker. Mash the lentils with a wired whisk and spoon. Keep aside.
Making sambar powder
In a small and heavy frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil. Keep the flame to a low. First, add the mustard seeds.
Then add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (bengal gram), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies.
On a low flame stir non-stop and roast till the spices become aromatic and golden.
Keep aside to cool. Don't burn the spices.
Once the spices cool, grind them to a powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder. Keep aside.
Preparation for idli sambar
Soak the tamarind in warm water for 25 to 30 mins.
Later squeeze the tamarind in the soaked water and extract the tamarind pulp. You can strain tamarind pulp and keep aside.
Chop all the veggies. Quarter the onions or halve the pearl onions. Peel and dice the carrots and potatoes.
Dice the brinjals and add them in water to prevent discoloration.
Chop the tomatoes in small pieces.
In a pan, heat oil first. Add the mustard seeds and let them begin to crackle. Then add the urad dal and sauté till they turn to a maroonish color.
Add quartered onions or halved pearl onions, curry leaves and asafoetida. Stir and saute for 2 minutes till the onions soften a bit.
Add the tomatoes, salt as required and continue to saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.
Then add the veggies which take a longer time to cook (carrots, beans, potatoes, drumsticks etc) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.
Then add remaining quick-cooking veggies like brinjals, ladyfingers (okra), pumpkin etc now. Stir and mix.
Add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.25 cups water.
Season with salt as per taste. Mix well.
Cover pan and simmer until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are almost cooked.
If the veggies are undercooked, then continue to simmer till they are almost cooked.
Making idli sambar
Add the ground sambar powder which we have already prepared. Mix well.
Add the mashed dal.
Add 1 cup water or as required depending on the consistency you want. The sambar which is served in the hotels is on the thinner side. For idli, dosa and medu vada you can keep the sambar having a medium to thin consistency. For serving with rice, keep the tiffin sambar slightly thick.
Stir and simmer without lid for about 6 to 7 minutes or till it comes to a boil. Stir at intervals.
Check the taste and add more salt if required.
Meanwhile when you keep the dal for pressure cooking, you can steam idli. Both small-sized mini idli or large idli goes well with tiffin sambar.
While serving place the idli in a serving bowl. Pour sambar. Garnish with some coriander leaves. You can even drizzle a bit of ghee on top. Serve idli sambar hot.
You can also garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with medu vada, idli, dosa, uttapam or even with steamed rice.
You can add your choice of veggies.
This recipe can be halved or doubled too.
Instead of tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils), you can also use a combination of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink lentils). Even moong dal can be used.