24 February, 2018
Sambar: Tangy Lentil soup from South India
An Indian meal is incomplete without some sort of lentil preparation. Be it thick and spicy, or light and runny. It may have vegetables incorporated in it, or lentil fritters. Each province in India probably could boast a speciality lentil dish.
The permutation and combination of herbs and spices are so many that the same lentil dish may be cooked differently in a same family.
To the vast majority of vegetarians, this is an important source of protein. Easily available, affordable and healthy, the humble dal has a deep relationship with Indian cuisine.
Recipe: Serves 4
Toor dal (Pigeon peas) 1/2 cup
Chopped vegetables* 2 cups
Chopped onion 1/4 cup
Tomatoes 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Sambar powder 3 tsp
Salt to taste
Tamarind pulp 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves 7-8
heeng 1/4 tsp
Cooking oil 2 tbsps
Dried red chillies 2
Black pepper 1/4 tsp
Wash the dal. Put this in a pressure cooker, add turmeric and cook till three whistles. Wait till the pressure releases on its own, open the cooker, blend the dal well. Set aside.
I had carrots and eggplant at hand which I have used. Other vegetables* like cauliflower, squash, green beans, potatoes, drumsticks can also be used. In a separate pan cook these till done.
Take about 2 tbsps of oil in a saucepan on high heat. Throw in the mustard seeds, allow it to sputter, add the red chillies, heeng, curry leaves one after the other. Cook for about 30 seconds and throw in the onions, fry till it gets a bit of colour, add the tomatoes. Now add the sambar powder, black pepper powder, saute for a couple minutes. Cover and cook till the tomatoes are mushy for about 5 minutes, add water only if needed to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan..
Add this and the boiled vegetables to the cooked dal. Throw in the tamarind paste and salt. Add more water to get the desired consistency. Cook for another 10 minutes.
The taste is a balance between sour, spicy and salt. Do not hesitate to check and tweak to your liking.
Goes really well with plain rice or dosa ( a savoury crepe). It works equally well as a soup.
Sambar powder is available in any Indian grocery store.
Heeng is Asafoetida available also in above store.