This very famous Vegetable Lentil (Dal) stew can be made with any type of veg so the different types you can make are simply endless.
Classic Sambar is made either exclusively with one of these vegetables or a combination of them – okra, moringa (also known as drumstick), carrot, radish, pumpkin, white radish, potatoes, tomatoes, brinjal (eggplant) and whole or halved shallots or onions. The vegetables, tamarind pulp, sambar powder, turmeric, salt, and asafoetida are boiled together, until the vegetables are half-cooked. After the vegetables are half cooked, the cooked lentils (The most common lentil used is the split pigeon pea also known as Toor Dal) are added and allowed to cook until the vegetables are done. A spice-scented oil is added to the cooked Sambar for extra flavor and tempering, and the dish is served garnished with fresh coriander leaves or curry leaves. The addition of spice-scented oils at the end of cooking for is a common Indian culinary technique. Mustard seeds, black gram, dried red chillies and curry leaves fried in ghee or vegetable oil is one example of numerous oil flavourings used for Sambar. Sambar is reflective of a broad and ancient tradition of lentil-based vegetable stews in southern India. In regions that grow coconuts, notably some areas of Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Sambar is made with a paste of fresh, grated and roasted coconuts and spices, instead of sambar powder. Sambar without lentils (but with vegetables/fish/dry fish etc.) is called kuzhambu in Tamil Nadu.
Sambar is served with rice well as with snacks like Idli, Sada Dosa, Upma & Ven Pongal.
Sambar powder is a coarse powder made of roasted lentils, dried whole red chilies, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and sometimes asafoetida and curry leaves with regional variations including cumin, black pepper, grated coconut, cinnamon, or other spices.
Store bought Sambar powder is pretty good, so do not feel afraid, shy or feel like you are letting the side down by buying this.
Sambar in its nature has many forms, it is a little like say Stew, there is no one recipe for all stews.
Below are 2 recipes for Sambar Powder that are fairly different.
Sambar Powder 1 Recipe
Coriander seeds (malli)- 1 Kg
Red Chillies-300 grams
Whole Black Pepper -250 grams
Tur Dal- 1/4 kg/ 250 grams
Cumin seeds or Jeera -100 grams
Fenugreek -50 grams
Bengal gram/Channa Dal -50 grams
Urad dal -50 grams
Sambar Powder 2 Recipe
Red Chillies -1/4 kg
Coriander Seeds – 4 cups or 350 grams
Toor Dal – 1 cup or 250 grams
Whole Black Pepper – 1/2 cup or 85 grams
Cumin Seeds – 1/2 cup 75 grams
Fenugreek – 2 tsp
Turmeric/manjal – 10-12 pieces