Stories from the Spice Rack: Sambar
Sambar. A rich, delicious stew with a mouth-watering aroma. Sambar. A truly versatile dish, one that can be served along with steaming hot idlis, dosas and vadas, or can be mixed with rice to obtain an essential part of a quintessential South Indian meal.
But here’s a secret – the sambar isn’t actually of South Indian origin. The story goes that it was the Maratha ruler Shivaji’s son Sambhaji accidentally invented it when he attempted to make dal by himself without his chef. He enthusiastically added some tamarind and when later informed that it wasn’t an ingredient of dal, he decided that his concoction would be a new dish named after himself.
Sambar contains everything you need for a nutritious and delicious meal – lentils and vegetables combined with tamarind and a bunch of flavourful spices. Vegetables are rich in fibre and antioxidants while lentils are a great source of protein as well as a range of vitamins and minerals.
Sambar made for rice is almost always different from sambar made for tiffin. My daughter always asks me how I make my idli sambar so appetizing. I’m not going to get into the entire recipe, but here are some of my tips to help make your tiffin sambar extra delicious:
- Add moong dal along with toor dal, in equal proportions; it brings a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Use small onions, rather than big ones, to get a more nuanced flavour.
- Lightly fry the onions and vegetables in oil before adding them.
- I always grind my masala fresh; it gives the strongest fragrance. Use channa dal, coriander seeds, dried chilli, a piece of asafoetida, some curry leaves & no more than a quarter teaspoon of fenugreek, pepper & cumin; fry in 1 teaspoon oil & grind.
- Add 1 tbsp grated coconut in the masala mixture if you want a more exquisite texture and smell.
- Blend and add 2 tomatoes to obtain an appealing colour and taste.
- Add a tiny bit of jaggery for a unique flavour.
- Temper the mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves in ghee for a richer aroma.
- Finally, after switching off the flame, add in chopped coriander leaves as garnish; it also enhances the taste.
Of course, it’s not easy to put in so much effort for such a regularly made dish. For me, freshly grinding the masala every time is tiring. That’s why I decided to try readymade sambar powder from Nature Mills. And it’s amazing! All the freshness and aroma are sealed up perfectly. Now I use it all the time with zero worries, because all Nature Mills products are 100% natural. Do check it out.
Blog Contributor: Gopika Chezhian