I make sambar at least once a week. It is a spicy, tangy lentil dish packed with protein and flavor. Usually an accompaniment with plain rice, idli, dosai or vada. A true south Indian meal is rarely complete without it. It always tastes better the next day. I cook the dhal in my rice cooker– it has a soup setting so no fuss. But you can cook the dhal on the stove. This is a recipe for a weekday sambar, nothing fancy, easy to prepare.
1 cup Toor dhal, rinsed
1 tsp turmeric
3-4 cups water
2 cups mixed chopped vegetables- Zucchini, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, , etc (can also use froz vegetables)
1 cup frozen okra
1 cup chopped sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
2-3 tbs sambar masala (found at any Indian grocery store, I like Periyar or Eastern brand, you may add more or less according to how spicy you want it)
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in a 1/4 cup water and strained
1 tsp asafetida (Hing or chayyam)
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Seasoning: 1 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (uluva), 2-3 red chilies, 1 small onion-sliced,
Wash the toor dhal well and place in a rice cooker with 3 cups water and 1 tsp turmeric and cook on medium heat until well cooked and dhal is falling apart. You can also use a pressure cooker as well for 3 whistles or use a pot on the stove. Mash up the cooked dhal– I usually use my immersion mixer and give it a few twirls to make it more smooth but some prefer to keep it a little chunky.
Place all the vegetables, except the okra and the tomatoes– in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt and a pinch of turmeric. Microwave for 5-7 mts or until cooked. With a slotted spoon transfer the vegetables to the cooked dhal. (Reserve the water to use for thinning out the sambar if too thick.)
Add sambar powder and let boil for a few minutes. Turn down heat, add the asafetida and the tamarind paste water. Do not let boil after adding tamarind or it will become frothy.
If the sambar is too thick, add some of reserved water. Add salt to taste. It will thicken some as it cools. Add frozen okra, cover and remove from stove. The frozen okra will cook quickly and won’t get slimy this way.. If using fresh okra, add and let the sambar simmer for a few minutes before turning it off.
Season– Heat oil in a small frying pan, add mustard seeds, allow to splutter. Add fenugreek seeds, red chilies and sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Allow to brown. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Add this seasoning to the sambar and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves