This is a quick recipe for sambar made with shallots that will serve as an instant side dish for dosa or idli. For newbies, Sambar is a flavorful, aromatic dish from South India which is essentially vegetables cooked in a stock made from toor dal (pigeon pea) and tamarind paste. A good delicious sambar is all that you need to enjoy your yummy dosas or idlis. Also goes well with steamed rice.
Spicy and tangy is how your sambar should be and the core ingredient that will make or break this dish is the sambar powder (i.e. the spice mix). Making sambar powder from scratch is probably the best way to get maximum flavour but store bought sachets come pretty close and makes it easier. I remember the first time I tried making sambar I was so nervous (at that time probably rocket science was easier than cooking :D) and had no clue how to chop the veggies, how much water I should add, how much tamarind goes into the stock...whew! I spent so many international calls calling my parents (yep both my dad and mom!!) at each and every step of cooking this dish. Now I find it all so silly as nothing is as simple as making a sambar. If you ignore the time consumed for preparing the veggies, I would say it is an instant dish!
Now, adding a variety of veggies (we add potatoes, tomatoes, snake gourd, brinjal, onions, yam, ash gourd, ladies finger, beans etc...) is how we normally make sambar but if you are pressed for time (or ahem...lazy like moi) then sambar with just shallots can easily please your palette as well. Cooking toor dal till it is nice and mushy is what gives your sambar a nice consistency so if you ensure that, there is absolutely nothing that can go wrong with this dish :)
Sambar with Shallots: Recipe
Ingredients (for 2 -3 servings):
- Toor dal (pigeon pea) - 1/4 cup
- Shallots - 1/2 - 3/4 cup, peeled and halved
- Tomato - 1 small diced
- Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
- Tamarind - 1 gooseberry sized piece (you can also use equivalent amount of paste)
- Sambar powder - 1 tbsp
- Salt - to taste
- Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
- Dry red chillies - 3 broken in half
- Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp
- Fresh cilantro - to garnish
- In a pressure cooker, add toor dal, water (about an inch above the surface of the dal), some salt and turmeric powder. Cook for 6 to 8 whistles till it is soft and mushy. With the back of a spoon gently press it to make it more creamy and set aside.
- Soak the tamarind piece in some hot water and squeeze out the extract. Set aside.
- Heat some oil in a wok. Add the shallots and saute till they begin to brown and translucent.
- Next add the diced tomatoes and saute till it becomes soft.
- Add the tamarind extract and the mashed toor dal. Add more warm water is necessary to get consistency as per your choice. I like it a bit thick.
- Simmer on low flame so that it boils and the flavours combine.
- Add the sambar powder and season with salt. You can adjust the sambar powder to suite your taste; more if you want it more spicy or less if you want it less spicy.
- Let it simmer for few more minutes. Meanwhile to make the tempering. heat some oil and add the mustard seeds. Once it starts to splutter add the broken red chilli and fry till the chillies begin to turn black. Add this tempering to the sambar and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with idli (try it with my rava idlis), dosa or steamed rice.