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Vengaya Sambar

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Serves: 6-8 people


For the wet paste...
4 dry red chilli
3 TBsp coriander seeds
1 TBsp chana dal (chickpea)
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (around 100 grams)
4-5 Shallots (for the flavor, optional)

For the base...
4 cups Tamarind Water (click here for detailed recipe)
1 cup pigeon peas (Tuvar / Toor Dal)

The vegetables...
1 cup Shallots (around 25-30)
1 cup finely chopped Tomatoes
1 cup chopped pumpkin, capsicum, carrot (optional. If you're using, chop big chunks)

For the flavor...
1 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)
2 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
A tiny block of asafoetida / hing (if you don't have this, use 1/2 tsp of the powder)
2 TBsp Sambar powder (available in Indian stores. Or make at home) - (optional, for additional flavor)
4-5 TBsp Curry leaves
2-3 TBsp Salt, to taste
Vegetable Oil, as required


Step I. Cook the Lentil: Pigeon Pea
1. I used the pressure cooker to 4 whistles. You could do it in the microwave or open pan too (by adding enough water & let it boil for 20 min)
2. Mash the lentils slightly

Step II. Getting the base ready
1. To 4 cups of tamarind water, add the veggies (except shallots) salt and sambar powder.

If you're tamarind water is too thick, add only half of it & dilute by adding water.

Step III. Fry the Shallots
1. Heat 2 tsp oil and add the shallots.
2. Fry until they are tender.
3. Reserve 4-5 for grinding to a paste. Add the rest into the tamarind water

Step IV. Tempering for the Sambar
1. Heat 1 tsp oil and add the chunks of asafoetida / hing. Let it fry. (If you don't have this, use the powder or you cans kip it too)
2. Once the aroma comes from asafoetida (about 15 secs) add the methi (fenugreek) and mustard seeds. Once the seeds start popping add the curry leaves and switch of the flame.
3. Add the whole thing to the Tamarind water base.

Step V. Start heating the Sambar
1. While we make the wet paste, place the vessel with the tamarind water mixture on the stove and let it start boiling. It will take some time for the smell of 'dry spices' to go and the Sambar to give a 'cooked smell'.

Step VI. Wet Paste
1. Heat 1 tsp oil and add red chillies. Also add the coriander seeds and chickpea seeds and fry until the seeds start to change color. (around 1-2 min)
2. Assemble all the ingredients needed to blend including fresh coconut and some of the reserved shallots.
3. Add to a blender and grind to a smooth paste. No need to add water.

Step VII. Adding paste & lentil to the Sambar
1. Let the sambar boil for at least 15 min. It should have reduced byh alf. Add 1 cup water and again let it boil.
2. Add the wet ground paste and mix well.
3. Finally, add the mashed lentils and mix well

Step VII. Finishing off
1. Let the mixture boil for a further 5-6 minuutes.
2. Switch off and garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves
3. Serve!

How to eat Sambar?
There are so many ways one could eat this comfort dish! Eat it as a side dish for Rotis, Dosa, Idli.. really any south Indian snack variety! But my personal favorite is to havethis with a bowl of hot rice!
Hot Rice ~ add sambar
Mix it up

1. This is just one way of making sambar. The variations are many. I'll save them for another post
2. Instead of tamarind water, you could mix 3 tsp of tamarind pulp / paste with 2 cups of water for the base.