Preparation / Directions:
* I use one medium sized onion peeled and chopped because I don't like shallots.
** if you can get tamarind use it and soak a fist-full in water for half hour and then squeeze the "juice" out and discard the waste and use the juice in the sambar.
Soak toor dhal in 4 cups water for one hour in a heavy-based pot. During this time chop the onions (if you use instead of shallots), potato and tomato (green beans and carrots may also be added).
Add the turmeric powder to the soaking dhal and place on stove. Bring to boil, lower heat to keep the dhal simmering. Close pot and allow dhal to cook until tender. Soaking dhal before cooking considerably lowers the cooking time which is about 30-45 minutes. Stir a few time to keep dhal from sticking at the bottom.
While dhal is cooking lightly fry the onions or shallots in 2.5 tab. vegetable oil. Do not allow the onion/shallots to brown. When dhal has cooked add some more water to bring the water level up to 4-5 cups again (use your judgment here because I cannot be more precise!). Now add the potatoes, tomato, sautéed onions/shallots, and any other vegetables to want to put in. Next add the tamarind paste (or tamarind "juice"), and sambar powder. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow the cook until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes) and keep stirring occasionally.
Heat the remaining 1/2 tab. oil and add the mustard, cumin, coriander seeds and the crushed red chile to the hot oil. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop stir the whole thing once and add to the cooking sambar. Finally add the cilantro leaves and cook for another 5 minutes and remove from stove.
The consistency should be like a thin soup and the sambar powder should not appear like dirt sticking to the veggies (you will see this happen initially). You may also add some green chiles if you like to add more "zip" to the sambar. If so add it with the rest of the veggies.
Sambar can be eaten with plain cooked rice, idlies (I know I owe you all this recipe!) or dhosas. Sambar is an integral part of South Indian cooking. It is made every day. As I mentioned in San Antonio a visiting naturalist from the Smithsonian Institute described a South Indian meal thus: mountain of rice and river of sambar!
Recipe By: Rames