Sambar/Saam-bhur/Sambh-urr/Saa-mb-aar… we are all still talking about the SAME dal-based tangy gravy that compliments everything you call “South Indian dish”. Since I haven’t met an Indian that doesn’t empty a container filled with Sambar, I’m going to confidently assume that this is a fan favorite and not describe this dish any further. But one thing I’ve become aware of is that a lot of Indians have tasted not more than 2 varieties of Sambar. The fact is there are over 20 variant recipes of this gravy. YES – those many – so let’s dig in!
This quintessential accompaniment to idli, dosa, vada, and Pongal has essentially been a favorite among South Indians and now that I’m here, I see it’s popular everywhere. Although there exist varied versions of dishes all across, the authentic tinge of the dish remains ubiquitous. It’s known to have taken its birth in the royal kitchen of Thanjavur. But other sources link its origin to Karnataka. Irrespective, we are all familiar with the classic taste of Sambhar and now will expose you to those 20 variations with twists.
If you don’t have Sambar powder at home, don’t run to the store next door. You can make it fresh and store it in a container. Here’s the recipe.
This aromatic dish can be prepared in a jiffy and can be served with white rice or Tiffen variations!
PS: I usually prepare Sambhar once to twice a week to go with Idli/Dosa or Steamed Rice. Pairs great with Pongal and Upma too!
My Top Recipe Recommendations
Note: I haven’t rated the recipes here, rather handpicked the best recipes for each category
1. Classic Sambar
2. Ingredient Based Variations
- Arachuvitta Sambar Recipe – Popular Tamil Nadu Variation- especially prepared in Tamil Brahmin homes with no onion/garlic addition. Traditionally no Sambhar powder is added since the name of the dish itself means “roast and grind” chosen ingredients
- Tiffen Sambar Recipe – This Sambar goes great with Idli, Dosa and Pongal. Potato +Shallots make this Sambar what it is. Classic touches of this recipe are – freshly ground sambar powder, a tsp of ghee and lastly a tsp of jaggery. Add these in to this recipe and tell me how it is!
- Vankaya Sambar/Katthirikkai Sambar/Brinjal Sambar
- Madras Style Murungakkai Sambar – Drumstick Sambar – This recipe is especially famous in Tamil Nadu. Definitely will turn around a lousy day at work. It worked for her! 😉
- Vendaya Keerai Sambar – This one is a no onion/no garlic recipe. Super healthy since it is made out of bitter tasting Methi leaves. Check out her tips so you ensure this recipe doesn’t turn out bitter tasting
- Mini Idly Sambar – Just look at the picture <3 Quick note- this sambar recipe takes in less tamarind and more tamoto. Don’t forget to garnish Mini Idly Sambar with chopped corriander leaves, onions and Ghee!
- Pasi Paruppu Sambar / Moong Dal Sambar – One of the easiest and healthy Sambar recipes. Garlic can be skipped if not a fan!
- Carrot Sambar – This tastes great with Rice and fried aaloo
- Tomato Sambar – Got abundance of tomatoes at home? If you plan to have upma for dinner, this should go on the side!
- Mullangi Sambar/Radish Sambar – Quick Tips: Drop the tamarind quantity on this one since Radish absorbs the tanginess of Tamarind and spits out a bag flavor to the dish. Fry Radish in oil before adding it to Sambar to get rid of its Bitter taste
- Pumpkin Sambar – The sweetness of yellow Pumpkin compliments the tanginess of Tamarind. LOVE this recipe
3. Location-Based Variations
Varies mainly in cooking style
4. Restaurants’ Secret Recipes
- Udipi Hotel Style Sambar – Unlike the traditional Karnataka’s sambar recipe, in this hotel, they reduce the quantity of coconut, make it mild sweet, and omit coconut oil so everyone enjoys the taste
- Saravana Bhavan Sambar – Almost unanimous votes for best Restaurant Sambar goes to HSB’s thick and delicious Sambar. She’s almost there with this recipe!
- Adyar Ananda Bhavan’s Recipe
- Hotel Style Tiffen Sambar
My Improv & Notes
Here are some of the generic notes before you jump into preparing Sambar today:
- Idly Sambar shouldn’t be spicy or thick. Use lesser green chilis/ Red Chili powder and dilute it to drinkable consistency.
- It should be less tangy. Pick out a small gooseberry size tamarind or instead go with 2 ripe tomatoes
- If you plan to use Idly Sambar powder, use about 1/4 cup toor Dal. Bump up the quantity of Dal if you don’t plan to use the powder.
- Use Shallots in Sambar for better taste
- Toor or Moong Dal used in Sambar should be cooked till soft and mushy. Use 1:4 ratio of Dal and Water and add some cooking oil in the pressure cooker. Wait until 4-5 whistles. Incase your dal didn’t turn mushy, mix 1-2tsp of Besan Flour with 1/4 cup water and add to Dal while boiling thereby giving Sambar it’s actual consistency
- Wanna cook Dal based Idly Sambar? Try to add in Drumstick, Pumpkin for authentic taste. Carrots and potatoes compliment well with Sambar too
- Don’t have pumpkin at home? Use small gooseberry sized jaggery for adding in sweetness
- Temper with Ghee when preparing Dal based Sambar. If you’re preparing Brinjal Sambar/Tomato Sambar today, temper with Gingely Oil/Nallennai/Sesame Oil
- Adjust the number of green chilies based on the ripeness of tomatoes when preparing Tomato Sambar
- Idly Sambar tastes better when given resting time of atleast 1 hour
Restaurants Serving Best Sambar in Bay Area
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