Sambar, for those unfamiliar with the term is a South Indian dish made with vegetables and lentils, flavored with tamarind extract and spice powders. It is one of the most popular dishes served as an accompaniment for rice, dosa, idly, and more. Special occasions like weddings and birthdays are quite incomplete without this delicacy. But the thing about sambar is that almost every household has their own recipe for it. Some use a powder, some don’t, some use coconut while some swear against it…you get the drift, right?
I used to rely on a store bought powder too until a few years ago, when our former neighbor in Chennai offered to make some for us. Aunty came over and demonstrated the process and I jotted down the approximate measurements and steps. She made enough to last me for quite a long time, so I did not bother to try making my own. Finally, when the stocks started dwindling, I decided to give it a try…and the rest is sambar history.
1 tsp - Fenugreek seeds (methi)
3 tbsps - Split Bengal gram (chana dal
1 tbsp - Coriander seeds (dhania)
6-10 (depending on taste) - Dried red chilies, preferably the round variety
Heat a small pan, on medium heat, and add the fenugreek seeds. Toast until they turn slightly darker and start spluttering. Remove onto a plate.
Add the split Bengal gram to the same pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the dal turns a shade darker. Add to the plate.
Sauté the dhania for 2 minutes or until they become crunchy (try pressing them with a spatula and they should crack easily). Remove onto the plate.
Finally, add the red chilies and sauté for 2 minutes or until they give out an aroma.
Now you have all your ingredients roasted and ready to powder.
Allow them to cool a bit, place in a blender/mixie, and make a fine powder. Store in an airtight container to maintain the freshness. You can even put it in the refrigerator, if you will not be using it too often.
I don’t have exact measurements for the lentils/tamarind/and other ingredients that go into the sambar, but I’ll definitely add a sambar recipe soon. Until then, for those who already know how to use the podi, go ahead and try this one. I am sure you’ll not go back to store bought ones again. Bon Appètit.