Thursday, June 19, 2008

Simbly Sambarlicious - Vengaya Sambar (Lentil with Shallots)

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Let me start this post with a disclaimer that I had nothing whatsoever to do with this one apart from clicking the photo and posting it on this blog. Infact, as far as people know me, I can have nothing to do with Sambar, apart from the fact that I'm married to a Sambar loving Woman.
A few months ago I made an epic journey to Chennai. It was epic on several grounds. I was making a train journey after 6 years in India and this was due to the fact that we wanted our son to experience a train ride ( this was the shortest possible journey that presented itself in recent times). Knowing my claustrophobia and immense cleanliness disorder this was going to be a struggle. And it was to an extent, but we enjoyed it. Secondly, it was the southernmost in India I was traveling to. I had heard horror stories about Chennai from a few people, and here I was, ready to experience it. The horror stories about the weather were true. It was extremely sweaty, and that too in February. The traffic was a nightmare and without my wife besides me I would have been lost in translation. Lastly, I was experiencing a true blue tambram wedding... my sister-in-law's, and everyone knew the punju guy coming to attend it. Hence, I was more a center of attention than even the bride groom. You could guess my amazement when I found no chicken or paneer dish at the wedding. No dancing, no pranks, no groom on a horse ... just a plain simple affair with plain simple food...and yet it cost as much as a north Indian gaudy wedding. It was a great experience. I loved wearing the veshti and gorging on Chettinaad food at restaurants. During the packed trip I even stole a day to visit Mahabaleshwar. It was amazing. Thankfully to my wife's relief I did not buy a 4 ft stone sculpture that I always wanted to get from there. Sadly, the great site will not remain forever, with the sea winds eroding the sculptures and rock cut temples on the shore.
Getting back to the dish for this post, Sambar is a delicacy, both in Chennai and in our home. Infact, they have a course which consists of Sambar with rice that is had after a course of Rasam with rice and before a course of Curd with rice.
Sambar is an extract of Thuvar Dal (Pigeon Peas) soured with tamarind. However, certain regions also use other souring agents like tomatoes. It is called Pulusu in Andhra and Huli in Karnataka. There are various types of Sambar that exist too. There is the Keerai Sambar, which has prawns added to it, then we have the Rayar Sambar which is green in colour and is extremely common in places like Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, we have a buttermilk sambar and we have the Vengaya Sambar which is made with Vengaya (shallots). There are many more versions that exist.
Personally, I love the Kannadiga style of Sambar and on weekends at the golf course where it is served, I polish off a bowl or two of it.

Vengaya Sambar


Thuvar Dal ( Split Pigeon Peas), boiled and mashed - 150 gms
Shallots / Madras Onions, peeled and skinned - 100 gm
Asafoetida (Hing) - 1 Tsp
Curry Leaves - 6-7 Sprigs
Tamarind - Lemon Sized soaked in 4 glasses of water
Dried Red Chillies - 4
Chana Dal (Bengal Gram) - 1 Tblsp
Corriander Seeds - 3/4 Tblsp
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 Tsp
Red Chili Powder - 1 Tsp
Salt - To Taste
Oil - 2 Tblsp

1. Heat Oil in a pan.
2. Fry Dried Red Chillies. Add Bengal Gram and Corriander Seeds. Fry for 2 minutes.
3. Coarsely grind them.
4. Heat oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds. When they begin to crackle add curry leaves and asafoetida.
5. Add in the shallots and fry for 2 minutes or till Shallots turn transparent.
6. Add in the tamarind pulp alongwith Asafoetida. Add turmeric powder and let it boil for 3 minutes.
7. Add the powdered red chilli, bengal gram and corriander seeds paste and salt.
8. Add in boiled mashed Thuvar Dal.
9. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add in the curry leaves.

Addendum : I visited Mahabalipuram and not Mahabaleshwar. Thanks to Bhags for pointing it out.


Kalai said...

My favorite sambar, especially with idli!! Nice one! :)

Anonymous said...

such a nice blog.


Srivalli said...

Gaurav, I take strong offense to the fact that you said you heard horror stories abt dare somebody even say such a them to me..heheh...:)..thats nice to know that you did finally enjoy visiting ..maybe you weren't really shown the way in our beautiful city...and hey if it was a true blue tambram wedding, they will have lots of games and all right, you must've enjoyed them...

and another thing..sambar rice is eaten before goes like this..a typical tamil sapadu..kootu, poriyal, sambar rice with appalam, Rasam rice, curd rice, followed by sweet...appa..writing abt the menu list takes a breather from me..heheh..enjoy your sambar..your wife's one looks yummy!

Aparna said...

You can't say the food wasn't good! And there's a lot to Chennai, no I don't belong there though my mother tongue is Tamil.
I may be biased, but Vengaya sambhar is just something else.:)

Bharti Khemani said...

Hi Gaurav..Nice blog and post. I'm the least educated person as far as sambhars go so it was interesting reading all that info. Also fun to read about the wedding bit!

bhags said...

Are you sure you went to Mahabaleshwar, the pics seem to be from Mahabalipuram.....Mahabaleshwar is near Pune

Gaurav said...

Sri, the language barrier was a big deterrent. The games were there, but with not understanding the lingo, really put me in confusion.
Aparna, totally agree with u ...It is different. You can see the glee on my wife's face when she is making it.
Bharti, thnx for the comment. I didn't know so much about Sambar's myself till the inhouse expert told me.
Bhags, good point. Changes made.:)

Jean@Yardworkerz said...

Nice! I love your blog!

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