Sambar is a delicious richly flavored lentil and vegetable stew, native to South India. Many versions of sambar exist, and each one is just as delicious as the other one. The key for a flavorful sambar is a good sambar masala. Like there exists many versions of garam masala powder, similarly every South Indian household has their own version of the sambar masala. I have always only used the ready made MDH Sambar masala powder that is easily available in stores. But I really loved Padma’s Sambar and since then I have only been using her sambar masala to favor mine. I was so glad to discover the right sambar masala for me.

Idli served along with Sambar

Warm Sambar is a delicious accompaniment to South Indian classics like idli, wada, dosa, or just along with plain simple rice, etc. Today I have made Okra Sambar because I had only okra at hand, but the mixed vegetable sambar is the conventional and most delicious. The addition of a variety of vegetables add their own flavor to the spicy and aromatic sambar. Tamarind is the traditional souring ingredient used, but if unavailable you can use lemon juice.

Sambar – Spicy Lentil and Mixed Vegetables Stew
Adapted from here


Toor dal – 1 cup
Tomato – 1, large, chopped
Green chillies – 4, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Canola oil – 3 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 3/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp
Dry red chillies – 4, each broken into half
Curry leaves – 3 sprigs
Mixed Vegetables – 2 cups (chopped/cubed: brinjal, potato, taro root, bottle guard, radish, zucchini, okra, drumsticks, french beans, carrot, pumpkin, beetroot, etc; peeled & whole pearl onions/shallots; cauliflower or brocolli florets) (I used only okra – 340 gms) (also I did not have shallots so I used 1 large sliced onion instead)
Thick Tamarind pulp – 5 tbsp
Jaggery/gud – 1 tbsp, grated
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt – to taste
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Sambar masala:
2 tsps of bengal gram/chana dal
2 tsps of black gram/urad dal
2 tsps of cumin seeds/zeera
3 tsps of coriander seeds/dhaniya
½ tsp black peppercorns/kali mirch
½ tsp of fenugreek seeds/methi
4 dry red chillies/sukhi lal mirch
¾ cup dry desiccated coconut/khopra

Delicious Warm Sambar


1. In a non stick frying pan dry roast all the spices separately under the heading sambar masala until they are just a few shades darker. Transfer all the roasted spices to a spice grinder and add a little water and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside. This is the sambar masala.
2. Wash toor dal in several changes of water. Soak it overnight or for 2-3 hours in surplus fresh cool water. Drain, and wash in several changes of water. Add the washed and soaked toor dal to a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 tbsp oil, chopped tomato, green chillies, turmeric powder and 3 cups of water. Close the lid and pressure cook until the dal is mushy. Using a whisk or a dal ghotni or an immersion blender, blend the dal into a paste. Keep aside.
3. In a large saucepan at medium high heat, add the remaining oil. As soon as it is warm, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they begin to crackle add the curry leaves and dry red chillies. (If you do not have pearl onions or shallots in hand, add the sliced onions and sauté them until they are pink). Immediately add the prepared mixed vegetables and mix well. Add salt and red chilli powder. Lower the heat to medium and pour in two cups of water. Cover with a lid and let cook until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the tamarind paste and grated jaggery. Now add the toor dal paste prepared earlier along with chopped cilantro and sambar masala. Mix well. Add water to give it a thin consistency. Half cover with a lid and allow it simmer for around 15 minutes more until the vegetables are soft and a good aroma fills your kitchen. Stir frequently and well, as the toor dal tend to sink to the bottom and stick. Serve warm along with plain rice, or dosa, or idli, or wada.


Sojni ki Phalli Ka Dalcha

‘Phalli’, in Urdu Lanaguage means beans or pods. Sojni Ki Phalli in Urdu language, are also called as ‘Drumsticks’ in English language. They are long, green, slender and triangular pendulous pods which grow on the Drumstick tree or Moringa oleifera, its scientific name. The trees are drooping and are native to the Indian subcontinent mainly. The tree is very useful as it does not require any special conditions to grow well and the leaves and pods are high in nutrition. The tree is drought resistant and almost each and every part of the tree is useful to mankind. I have however never consumed the leaves of the plant, but I simply love the drumsticks.

The pods which are rich in vitamin C, iron, folic acid and calcium have an outer hard skin, winged and waxy seeds in the centre and a delicate delicious pith in between. They are very long in length, around 30 cm or more. Once cooked, the only parts of the pod consumed are the sweetish and delicate jelly like pith and the winged seeds. Be sure to look for younger looking ones which are bright green in color while you shop.Seeds show as knobbles in mature seeds, avoid these. They are available fresh at various Indian stores selling groceries, and are also sold canned. However canned or frozen drumsticks can only give you a faint impression of the real thing.

To prepare the pods, they are first washed and pat dried, top and bottom trimmed, and the outer skin is scraped slightly with knife, cut into 5-6 cm long tubes and then simmered in water and spices for 10 minutes to be added to any curry or dals and consumed. There is a particular method by which the pods are consumed. The pods are easily broken into three strips once cooked and each strip is scraped by a spoon or by running your teeth down the lenth of the strip. Some even chew the outer tough skin to extract the juices and the sweet pith and later the skin is discarded it at the side of the plate.

Among the various dishes in which these pods are added, the most favorite one enjoyed by me is Sojni ki Phalli Ka Dalcha. I remember I was a little kid when I tasted these for the first time, and I still love them immensely.

Sojni ki Phalli ka Dalcha- Drumsticks in a Tangy thin Lentil Soup


Sojni ki Phalli/Drumsticks – 4, cut into small tubes-approx 5-6 cm in length (as shown in the picture above)
Tuvar ki dal/Yellow lentils (or) Masoor ki dal/Red lentils (or) Chane ki dal/Bengal gram – 1 cup
Red Chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Tamarind concentrate – 3 tbsp
Canola Oil – 2 tsp
Curry leaves, fresh – 5-8
Dried Red chillies – 3
Garlic Cloves – 2, large, smashed
Tomato – 2, finely chopped


1. Soak the dal for about 2 hrs in surplus cool water. Later drain and boil the dal in a saucepan with 4 cups of fresh water along with a pinch of salt and turmeric until the dal is mushy. Add tamarind concentrate to the dal. With an immersion blender, puree the dal or whisk it alternatively until smooth.
2. Meanwhile, in a pressure cooker, pour oil, add the curry leaves and the dried red chillies, cumin seeds, garlic cloves and as soon as they start to splutter, add red chilli powder, turmeric, salt and the chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Add the drumsticks and pour in 2 cups water. Close the lid and pressure cook for 5 minutes or until the pods are done. To test doneness, try breaking a pod using a spoon, if it easily breaks, then it is done. Pour the pureed dal into the saucepan with the drunsticks and pour water to achieve the consistency you want. Add tamarind concentrate, and let it cook on medium for 5 more minutes. The dal is neither too thick or too thin in consistency. Serve warm.

Suggested Accompaniments: Basmati Chawal, and a Vegetarian or Non-vegeratian side dish.

This delicious dal is my entry to the event ‘Delicious Dals from India’ being hosted by Suma at her blog Veggie Platter.