Sambar is a flavorful spicy South Indian lentil soup made with a variety of vegetables. It fits nicely with many South Indian meals, including dosas (pancakes), idlis (savory cakes), and rice. It could be said that a South Indian meal is incomplete without sambar. Sambar is usually poured over or alongside steamed rice. In the south of India, vada sambar and idli sambar are popular breakfast foods. Several minor variants exist depending on the meal of the day, region, and the vegetable used. Sambar without dal (but with vegetables or fish) is called kozhambu in Tamil Nadu. There are major and minor variants of kozhambu (mor kozhambu, vathal kozhambu, rasavangi, etc.) Note that there are minor but subtle differences in preparation between all the variants (for instance, whether vegetables are added to the tamarind water or vice versa, which make them taste different). Sambar with rice is one of the main courses of both formal and everyday south Indian cuisine. It is also served with idli, dosa and vada.
250g red or yellow lentils
½ tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
½ tablespoon ground asafoetida
½ tablespoon ground fenugreek
½ tablespoon black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
7 small dried red chillies
140g green beans, trimmed and cut in half
Place the lentils in a large pan with 400 ml. water. Add turmeric and tamarind and boil for 25-30 mins until very soft. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the shallots for 8-10 mins. When softened, add the spices, curry leaves, chillies and a good pinch of salt.
Cook for another 2 mins, until fragrant. Boil another pan of salted water and cook the beans for 4 mins until tender, then drain well. Once the lentils are cooked, add the shallot spice mix and the beans, stir well and add more seasoning if necessary. Sambar is ready to be served!