Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sambar (lentil curry)

Sambar can refer to most dhal (lentil) based curries. These are vegetarian and not spicy. This versatile curry can be concocted with most vegetables of your choice. One of the versions already explored in this blog is the keerai kari.
This next sambar is the multi-vegetable (traditionally made with odd number of vegetable types- 3, 5, and so on. Potatoes counts towards one of these), slightly tangy curry packed full of lentil goodness. The lentil choice, therefore, becomes rather an important factor on how good your curry turns out. I normally try and aim for a balanced taste and consistency in my curry; using 2:1 ratio of green and yellow lentils to toor dhal. The latter lends beautiful flavours to the curry but stays rather firm however long they are cooked, while the green and yellow lentils turns to mush when cooked and thickens the curry easily.
50g toor dhal
50g green lentils

50g yellow lentils
1 onion, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, whole
3-4 slices of ginger
1 teaspoon spice mix (thalippu)
2-3 dried chillies
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 green chilli, whole
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 large or 5-6 small potatoes, peeled and cut into six
1 large carrot, cut into chunky slices
1 medium aubergine (2-3 if using the smaller variety)
2 tomatoes, quartered

100g Indian broad beans (avarakkai), see (; prepared by removing the 'strings' from each side of the pods

3 drumsticks, see (; prepared by scraping the skin off lightly with a knife, then washed and cut into 2-3" segments
*white cabbage/pumpkin/snake gourd/bottle gourd/white radish (daikon) are some of the other vegetables that are commonly used in this curry.

Lentils I used in this curry (clockwise from top): toor dhal, yellow lentils and green lentils

Sambar vegetable (clockwise from top): Avarakkai, mini aubergine and drumstick

Soak the dhal for 30-60 minutes. Wash and boil them next in a pot with 2 bowls of water, garlic, ginger, green chilli, turmeric  powder, salt and a teaspoon of oil until the pulses are nearly cooked.

Include the potatoes and cracked black pepper at this point and let it boil. Around 10 minutes later (when the potatoes are half done), add the other vegetables except tomatoes.

In a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil over low heat. Sauté the onions, thaalippu (spice mix), curry leaves and dries chillies until the onions are soft. Pour the entire contents of the pan into the curry.

Season the curry with tamarind juice and salt, add the tomatoes to the pot and boil until the vegetables are cooked. You can add a splash of milk, cream or coconut milk for some creaminess, but it may remove the signature tanginess of this dish. Best enjoyed with rice, pappadoms and lime pickle. Leftover sambar are also an ideal dip for roti canai.

Sambar with rice, papadom, fried seabass and lime pickle.

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