Sambar is a flavorful and aromatic South Indian stew that holds a central place in the region's culinary landscape. This lentil-based dish is prepared using a variety of vegetables and a distinctive blend of spices, creating a harmonious medley of flavors.
To make sambar, split pigeon peas (toor dal) are cooked until tender and then blended with a mix of vegetables such as drumsticks, carrots, eggplant, and okra. Tamarind pulp is added to lend a tangy and slightly sour note. A unique spice mix, called sambar powder, is used, comprising ingredients like coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chili, and curry leaves. This mixture infuses the dish with its signature taste.
The cooked lentils and vegetables are combined with the tamarind and spice mixture, creating a thick and hearty stew. The dish is tempered with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, and curry leaves, enhancing its aroma and taste. Sambar is often served with rice, idli, dosa, or vada, and it is accompanied by coconut chutney.
Beyond being a delightful dish, sambar is a significant component of South Indian cuisine, symbolizing the region's rich culinary heritage and cultural diversity. Its balance of spices, tanginess, and nourishing ingredients makes it a cherished comfort food enjoyed across all meals of the day.