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Appetizers, Soups, Vegetarian

Shallot sambar

The dosa is a hugely versatile food. In India, it can be a light snack or a meal in itself. It can be made light and lacy or thick and substantial. It can take a simple five minutes to prepare ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour | Makes 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup toor dal
  • 2 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 cup peeled and quartered shallots
  • 2 teaspoons sambar powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

Step 1Wash the dal thoroughly until the water runs clear. In one saucepan combine the dal, 1 1/2 cups water, the turmeric and 1 teaspoon of oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the dal is soft, about 30 minutes. Mash with a wire whisk until softened.

Step 2In another saucepan, dissolve the tamarind paste in the remaining 3/4 cup water over low heat for several minutes. Add the shallots and simmer until the shallots are tender, about 15 minutes. Mix into the cooked dal. Add the sambar powder and salt and simmer over low heat just until heated through.

Step 3Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small, shallow saucepan over high heat until it almost smokes. Add the mustard seeds. When these start spluttering, add the curry leaves and immediately empty the mixture into the simmering sambar. Turn off the heat and garnish with the cilantro. Serve hot.

Note: This is a spicy, wholesome stew made with dal and vegetables. In this version, I use shallots, which lend a slightly sweet taste to the sambar. You could also use vegetables such as potatoes, onions, green beans, eggplants, radish, carrots and tomatoes. The sambar is a mainstay of the South Indian daily diet and is eaten with rice, dosas or idlis (dumplings). You will need to make a special mix of spices--sambar powder--for this. The powder is also commercially produced and available in Indian grocery stores.
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