An East Indian's sambar
Gotta love the Facebook "memory" product where one is reminded of memories - good or otherwise, from one's Facebook timeline. Recently a hot plate of rice & sambar that I made 5 years ago popped at the top of my timeline as a memory. I spent a good part of my time in India at the South of the country, and as a family we learnt to relish a hot bowl of sambar after school. Mom makes some really good sambar, which she learnt and improvised over the years with the collective wisdom of all our South Indian neighbors. I had never made one myself in India, but the company of sambar loving folks at the University got me a few tricks up my sleeve. For example, one friend cited his aunt's technique of adding onions at the last 5 minutes of the cooking process. Who knew that could be the star of a recipe?!
I love having sambar with paratha! Odd combination for a lot of people, but hey! That's what we did with the leftovers in the morning for breakfast. Since paratha is far fetched on a weekday, let's settle in with some rice, and the ghee that my Aunt sent me from India. Although ghee is a commonly available commodity in the supermarkets here but there is something so special about the one my Aunt makes. Must be that love! I usually buy the one from the local supermarket for cooking, and sparingly use my Aunt's on my meal while eating. I am also happy that I'll be going to India soon to refill it. Hopefully she has the time as my cousin's wedding will be hosted at our village. Ah well, one can at least hope!
The batch that I prepared today is a big one, and can easily store in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a few weeks. I'd certainly recommend storing a box of this in the freezer for those weekday nights - gotta admit, we all have those!
Time for preparation: 40 minutes (or less!)
- 2 cups Red lentil
- 5 tablespoons Sambar powder (no replacements for this! Grab one at any Indian supermarket)
- half cup of Tamarind paste (if the tamarind paste is super tangy, i.e. good in quality, use a quarter cup)
- 2 cups Chopped vegetables (I used aubergine, pumpkin, okra, and beans)
- 1 large Red onion
- 5 cloves of Garlic
- 3 tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 8-10 cups of water
- 5 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- A few curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- Clean the red lentils thoroughly and set that to cook with 5 cups of water. This should take roughly 15 minutes.
- Once the lentils are thoroughly cooked, add the vegetables, turmeric powder, sambar powder, tamarind paste, and salt. Let the vegetables cook for another 10-15 minutes. We would like to retain the structure of the veggies, so keep an eye!
- On a separate pan, heat some oil and crackle the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the onion and garlic, and fry until the onions are golden brown.
- Quarter the tomatoes and add them to the browned onion. Saute for 2 minutes and transfer the tempering to the batch of lentils and mix thoroughly.
- Add the remainder of water on the pan where we just fried the onions, and wash off all the remaining bits of flavour into the lentils.
- Add quartered and separated onions, and add that to the lentils, let all the flavours combine for 10 minutes and done!
This is how I learned to make sambar in a way that is close to my Moms recipe. Of course every family has their own recipe and I'd love to get some tips on how you make sambar!