Friday, October 5, 2012

Sambar Dal

It's been days that I had last posted a recipe of dal. I first had the helping of sambar dal in Kolkata served as accompaniment to masala dosa in a restaurant that was famed for its South Indian meal with Uttapam, Masala Dosa, Onion Dosa, Butter Dosa and Idli topping the list. Since then I had a desire secretly nurtured in my heart that one day if opportunity came my way, I would like to try cooking South Indian dishes.

My wish came true when I went to Bangalore and started working in office. Most of my colleagues hailing from different regions of South India used to bring varieties of home cooked cuisines for lunch. I happened to pick up some authentic South Indian recipes from couple of my colleagues who, like me, cherished a penchant for cooking and showed an express desire for learning Bengali fish curries. Sharing tiffin among colleagues and friends makes you aware of the endless spectrum of Indian culinary creations, each one tasting different from the other and singular in its own way.

Sambar also known as Sambhar Dal is a popular Southern lentil concoction with seasonal vegetables namely, okra, eggplants, carrots, shallots, bottle gourds, pumpkin, radish and even potatoes thrown together with tamarind extract. A special powder, which is a mix of an array of spices, known by the name of Sambar or Sambhar powder is used here. For my convenience, I always rely on the readymade sambar powder easily available in Indian groceries, but if you want to take the effort of making the powder from a scratch, then note down the ingredients below, dry roast them on a skillet and grind them into powder.

v  2 tbsp coriander seeds
v  3 dry red chillies
v  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
v  1 tbsp Bengal gram/chana dal
v  1 tbsp urad dal/split black gram
v  1 1/2 tbsp toor dal/ pigeon peas
v  1/2 tsp turmeric powder
v  1/2 tsp asafetida powder
v  1 inch cinnamon stick
v  6-7 curry leaves
v  1/2 tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
v  1/2 tsp mustard seeds
v  1 tsp black peppercorns (optional)


Ingredients:                                        Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
ü  350 gm toor dal or pigeon peas
ü  5 tiny eggplants (chopped lengthwise)
ü  1 red onion (chopped)
ü  2 tomatoes (chopped)
ü  2 cups of bottle gourd (chopped)
ü  1 large size carrot (cut into roundels)
ü  1 cup of drumsticks
ü  1 tsp turmeric powder
ü  1 tsp kashmiri red mirch
ü  5-6 green chillies (chopped)
ü  2 heaped tbsp sambar powder (readily available in Indian stores)
ü  6 tsp tamarind pulp (you may adjust the amount according to your taste bud)
ü  Salt to taste
ü  White oil for cooking
For sauté:
ü  1 string of curry leaves
ü  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
ü  1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
ü  1/2 tsp hing or asafetida powder
ü  1/2 tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
1) Wash toor dal under running water nicely couple of times, then put them in a pressure cooker in 2-3 glasses of water along with turmeric powder, onion, bottle gourd, carrot and drum sticks. Cook for 1 whistle on high flame. Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker come down to room temperature before opening the lid. (In case if you are in a hurry wishing to open the lid moment after you take it off the flame, you may place the pressure cooker under running water to let the steam out. It will enable you to open the lid quickly.)
2) Now heat oil in a wok. Add the ingredients for sauté and let them crackle.
3) Add tomatoes and stir around for a minute. Toss the eggplants in and shallow fry them a bit.
4) Add kashmiri red mirch, green chillies, sambar powder and salt. Sauté the mix for 2 minutes. Add tamarind pulp diluted in 1/4 cup of water. Sauté for 8-10 minutes on medium flame.
5) Pour the dal in together with the vegetables. Measure out 2 cups of water into the dal and bring it to a boil. (According to your preference, you may adjust the amount of water. Usually, Sambar dal is little thick in consistency.)
6) Serve hot with rice, dosa, bread or drink like soup.

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