Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nuances of Making a South-Indian Sambhar "Lentils And Vegetables"

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What's on the menu today?? "Cherry-Belle" Radish Sambhar  on a bed of white rice with a Tsp of  Ghee + Hyacinth Beans/Broad Curry With Grated Coconut Bitter Gourd/Bitter Melon Curry + Homemade Curd/Yogurt +  Indian Hot Lime Pickle

Can the Irish live without Potato? Can Asians((Yes, Indians included!!! So put that question "Are Indians Asians" to rest)) live without Rice? Probably not! Umm, I don't know about the "Russian part" of Asia. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But I can vouch for the fact that most part of India is addicted to rice.Especially South India..As much as the North Indians are addicted to Roti, I suppose!.

As for me, I could go without eating rice for 3-4 days max. After that I want it on my plate! And I want my damn "Sambhar" and "Poriyal(Vegetable sides)" to go with it. The smell of Sambhar on a steaming pile of fluffed rice always sounds divine for a riceaholic like me. Pretty much every home in TamilNadu(the state I hail from) makes this for lunch. Even though the procedure is somewhat similar, Sambhar taste is unique in every house. My mom's might be a little different than mine which should be surprising (but isn't to me) considering how she was the one who taught me the basics of making this. Well, it all depends on the "Sambhar Powder" that is sort of a secret recipe in every home.

Usually "Sambhar Powder" is a "finely milled" mix of all/some of these ingredients::Coriander seeds, Dry Red Chili, Peppercorns, Cumin seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Mustard seeds, Bengal Gram, Split Pigeon Peas, Curry leaves and Turmeric etc etc. While the amount/proportion of each ingredients in the powder differs from house to house this is how its usually made ->> Each ingredient is dry fried separately until they start emitting aroma. Then they are mixed together,scooped into a lidded basket and taken to a  professional "Flour Mill" and ground to a fine powder. Since this is such a painstaking process, its usually done in a large scale. Portions of it is frozen which obviously extends the shelf life. My MIL always makes this for me and I bring a big bulky packet when I come back from India. For folks who don't care to make it at home, there is always store-bought varieties. My favorite store-bought brand is MTR Sambhar Powder.
"Cherry-Belle" Radish. Don't they look cute?? I adore them.
  • 20-24 Cherry-Belled Radish, cleaned
  • 3/4 Cup Split Pigeon Peas "Tuvar Dhal"
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 Medium Tomato, seeded and thinly cut
  • 4-5 Hot Green Chili, vertically slit
  • 2 Stalk Curry Leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 Tbsp of  home-made/store-bought Sambhar Powder or more/less 
  • 1/8 Tsp + 1/8 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • Marble-sized Tamarind, soaked and juice extracted
  • 3-4 Large Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp of Oil for cooking
For Tempering:
  • A few pieces from the Seasoning Ball (OR) 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds + 1 Tsp Urad Dhal/Split Black Gram + 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • A pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
  • 1 Tbsp Oil for Tempering
  • Cook/Pressure Cook the Split Pigeon Peas along with Garlic pods and Turmeric Powder until they are of mashable consistency. Carefully mash the lentil/dhal and set it aside.
  • Thinly slice the Radishes.
  • Fry the sliced radishes in 2 tbsp Oil until the tips start to brown.
  • Top the browned radishes with onions, tomato, curry leaves, and slit green chilies.
  • Add the Sambhar powder, 1/8 Tsp Turmeric Powder to the pan.
  • Mix to incorporate.
  • Add about 2-3 cups of water and cook the contents of the pan for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the mashed Dhal/Lentil.
  • Extract the juice from the tamarind and discard the pith and seeds. Add salt and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Temper the ingredients under "Tempering" in a tbsp of oil.It could be bits of seasoning ball or the latter option.
  • Switch off the stove and add the chopped cilantro. Sambhar is now ready.
  • Serve warm Sambhar with steaming white or brown rice and choice of vegetable side dishes called "Poriyal" along with some hot pickle/relish and maybe potato chips.
Sambhar can be made with other vegetables. Some excellent choices are:
  1. Vegetables that need browning prior to cooking: Okra, Turnip, Carrot
  2. Vegetables that don't need browning: Small "Purple" eggplant, Thai Eggplants, Raw Mango, French Beans, White Pumpkin, Snow-peas or a "combo" of above vegetables.
  3. A Seasoning ball(Known as Vadagam) is a "sun-dried concoction" of red pearl onions, mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic, cumin seeds, urad dhal, asafoetida, a pinch of turmeric powder and castor oil to bind them together. Seasoning balls are like treasures. They are made with special care and love. Like Sambhar Powder, MIL either makes it herself or gets it from her mom's village. This is the supply I got for this year. I used up almost 5 of them. When they are tempered, the emit the most wonderful aroma! If one is keen on knowing how it is made, you should check one of my fellow blogger's post here.
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  1. sambar looks very yummy and nice clicks too..

  2. Delicious looking South Indian Platter. Wonderfully prepared.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  3. I can smell that wonderful sambar already

  4. wow those seasoning balls sound like a great idea..never heard of it before..btw i make like the worst sambar in the world i think :(

  5. Such a homey platter. Loved everything.Very well written !!

  6. Mmm delicious! looks very tempting pics....

  7. Woww... looks super delicious and perfect... awesome pictures too.. :)
    Indian Cuisine

  8. WOnderful platter, seriously makes me hungry..

  9. wow,the clicks make me hungry instantly! Loved those baby radish,so cute!

  10. I am inviting myself to your lunch...all those in the menu are my favourites. Wondeful spread!

  11. Now that's called an ultimate meal, your platter filled with lots of sides is making my stomach growl CL :( Radish is my fav veggie. Love radish sambar a lot, pics are fab.

  12. Ultimate comforting meal! Reminds me of my mom's cooking, sadam, sambhar, rasam, 2 poriyals - everyday :-)


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