Sambar is a dish common in South India and Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines, made of toor dal. A variant of Sambar called Pappuchaaru (Telugu) is more common in Andhra Pradesh.
Sambar is a vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind and toor dal, and is very popular in the cooking of southern regions of India especially in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Each state in the South prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment.
Typical ingredients of the sambar powder include toor dal, roasted lentils, coriander seeds, dried whole red chilli, fenugreek seeds, coriander leaves and curry leaves. Regional variations may include versions with mustard seeds, cumin, black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, ground coconut or other spices.
This powder is prepared by pan roasting the whole spices and grinding them to a rather coarse powder with some salt and is ready to use.
TO MAKE A QUICK SAMBAR
Dice your chosen vegetables and simmer until tender ( root vegetables are a good choice as a base). Cook your lentils (around 250 to 300 grams for two to three servngs depending how many vegetables you also use) drain and coarsly mash or crush the cooked lentils so they still have bite but are fluffy.
Heat some oil in a pan (around two tablesppons) add the cooked and drained lentils and the drained and cooked vegetables and lightly sautee the whole with as much tamarind (Mangosteen or Amchoor are good alternatives) as desired (souring agents) and add two to three heaped teaspoons of this Sambar mix)
You may also add Asafoetida and some turmeric at this stage if you wish.
Add half a litre of vegetable stock (or just plain water if you wish – or even the water you used to cook the vegetables in if you wish and simmer until the whole is cooked well, thickened somewhat and all the ingredients are tender. If you need to add more stock whilst simmering – do not be afraid to do so – this is a broth after all.
Serve with plain boiled rice swimming in the Sambar mix or eat as a broth. Garnish with heaps of freshly chopped coriander leaves.