Sambar dal

Sambar dal

Spice Kitchen
Jana Liebenstein

A sambar is a South Indian lentil preparation that usually includes vegetables and is flavoured with tamarind. Almost any vegetable can be used in a sambar, and the tamarind provides tartness and preserves the vitamins of the cooked vegetables. Sambars are eaten either with steamed basmati rice or served with dishes such as Upma or Cabbage bondas.


Quantity Ingredient
125g split red lentils or red lentils, washed and drained
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 small eggplant, diced
1/4 small cauliflower, divided into small florets
12 green beans, trimmed and diced
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
coriander leaves, chopped, to garnish

Sambar Paste

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons split yellow peas
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon Tamarind pulp


Quantity Ingredient
30g Ghee
or salted butter
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 whole dried red chillies
20 curry leaves
1 small onion, chopped


  1. Put the lentils, turmeric and 750 ml water in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
  2. Meanwhile, to make the sambar paste, grind the split yellow peas using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. Transfer to a small bowl and mix together with the fenugreek, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, coconut and tamarind pulp to form a paste.
  3. When the lentils are cooked, stir in the sambar paste, eggplant, cauliflower, green beans and tomato and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the salt to taste.
  4. About 5 minutes before the sambar is ready, make the tempering. Heat the ghee or butter in a small frying pan over a high heat. Add the mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, dried chillies and curry leaves, and heat until they begin to crackle. Immediately add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Pour the tempering over the sambar, garnish with the chopped coriander and serve.
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