Sambar without sambar powder is today’s recipe to share in Onam Sadya Special. For those who wonder what in the food world a sambar (or sambhar) is- Sambar is a type of stew made with lentil and vegetables in tamarind broth. We usually make sambar with the store-bought sambar powder since it is the easiest way. Even the sambar powder tastes different in different states of India. Sambar has a lot of variations in Kerala itself. In some areas of Kerala, like the places near to coastal Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Sambar is also made with a roasted mix of coconut and spices. In Tamil Nadu, sambar made without lentils is called Kuzhambu.
So what before all these Sambar powder brands were born? Have you ever thought about that? I did, although I never got the right answer. But one thing I can tell you is you can make Sambar powder at home. Since it is a laborious process, we may have shifted to the brands. Today I am going to share with you the recipe for a really tasty sambar without sambar powder. So what could be the secret ingredients?. Here it goes…
Sambar Without Sambar Powder/ Lentil Vegetable Stew
- ½ cup split pigeon pea washed and soaked in water
- 4 cups of water
- 1 potato peeled and diced
- ½ raw plantain diced
- ½ lemon cucumber peeled and diced
- ½ of a medium onion diced
- 3 tbsp coconut oil or canola oil
- 4-5 okra lady finger, diced
- 1 drumstick peeled and cut into 1-inch length
- 3 tomatoes diced
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder ground cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- Tamarind small lime sized ball or 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
- ¼ tsp asafoetida
- 1 tsp fenugreek seed
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 4-5 dried red chilli dry cayenne pepper
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh cilantro leaves chopped
- Salt to taste
In a thick bottomed vessel, mix the soaked pigeon peas and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are well cooked and can be almost mashed. You can do this in a pressure cooker also.
When the peas are cooked, add the potatoes, plantain, lemon cucumber and onion into the cooked peas. Mix well. Add more water just to reach the top of the vegetables. Cover and cook until the vegetables are almost cooked.
While the lentil and vegetables are cooking, soak the tamarind ball in ¼ cup water. Mash with your fingers and keep aside.
Heat a pan. Dry fry the fenugreek seed for 2-3 minutes on medium flame. Remove from heat and make it into a fine powder. Keep aside.
To the same frying pan, add 2 tbsp oil. When the oil is hot, add the drumstick and okra into the oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder into the pan. Stir well and cook for a minute on medium-low flame.
Add the diced tomatoes and again mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add this into the cooked vegetable-lentil mix. Mix well.
Strain the tamarind water and add to the cooked vegetables. Add salt and asafoetida and mix well. (Add more water if needed).
Bring it to a boil. Then cook simmering until a semi-thick consistency is reached.
Add the fenugreek powder and mix well.
Remove from heat.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Crackle the mustard seeds. Tear the dry red chilli and add it the oil. Stir-cook for 10 seconds without burning.
Remove from heat and add the tempering to the vegetable-lentil mix.
Add the cilantro leaves. Crush the curry leaves with your fingers and add this to the sambar.
Mix well and keep it covered for a few minutes.
The traditional Kerala style sambar without sambar powder is ready.
Cooking the pigeon peas in a pressure cooker makes the process fast.
The Onam sadya in the past was not hosted by 20+ side dishes like these days. They only had 5-6 dishes and sambar was one among them. This is one of the traditional and authentic recipe os sambar without sambar powder. Sambar is usually served with cooked rice, Idli and Dosa. Click the link if you would like to get the recipe for Dosa.
Instead of cilantro leaves, my amma used to add a leaf that tastes and smells similar or better than the cilantro leaves which made her sambar a unique one and my all time favorite. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of that leaf. My Chitta (Amma’s sister) makes the best sambar without sambar powder. Maybe everyone will have their own way of making everything unique. That is the reason for this much diversity in the world.