Saturday, March 25, 2006

spicy delicious sambhar

i tried out viji varadarajan's recipe for spicy delicious sambhar (araithavitta thakkali vengaya sambhar) after she left a comment on an earlier post. i was eager to see if i could create an "authentic" tasting sambhar. i was a little skeptical at first wondering how this recipe could be any better than the one i usually follow. after all, sambhar is sambhar is sambhar. well actually, i was wrong. i followed instructions exactly and ended up making the most delicious sambhar i have ever made. it came really close to tasting like saravana bhavan's. at the end of the post, i'll tell you what i think made the difference.

small onions - 1 cup, peeled
tomatoes - 1 cup, chopped medium
thoor dal - 1/4 cup
tamarind - medium lemon-sized
pitlai powder - 1 1/2 tsps (see recipe below)
mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
oil - 1/2 tsp
methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
red chilli - 1
curry leaves - a few
jeera powder - a pinch
salt - to taste

- soak thoor dal for 15 minutes in 2 cups of hot water and cook until soft
- soak the tamarind in a cup of hot water for a few minutes and extract the pulp fully

- heat oil and pop the mustard seeds, add red chilli and methi seeds
- now add onions and saute for 10 seconds. add half the curry leaves, half the tomatoes, tamarind juice and salt. close lid for a few minutes and allow it to simmer over a medium heat
- when the onion softens add dal, pitlai powder, the remaining curry leaves, jeera powder and the remaining tomatoes. boil until it thickens a little and transfer to a serving bowl.

serve hot with rice, ven pongal, dosai, idlis and uppuma.

i ate my sambhar with brown rice and spicy ladyfinger dry curry made in the microwave. i think the key difference in taste was created by the pitlai podi which i have never used before. i use a sambhar powder made in my parents' home in bombay but i'm pretty sure it does not include coconut powder. also, sauteeing the onions just a bit adds a lovely roasted taste to the sambhar. adding tomatoes also makes a difference as i usually don't. overall, a great recipe if you are looking for the real deal when it comes to sambhar!

pitlai podi recipe

dhania - 3 cups
channa dal- 1 cup
red chillies - 3/4 cup
hing - 5 marble-sized pieces
grated coconut - 2 cups
oil - 2 1/2 tsps

in a 1/2 teaspoon of oil, roast the hing well (press it down with a ladle so that the insides are roasted well or use the powder). in another teaspoon of oil, roast the dhania, red chillies and chana dal. in another half teaspoon of oil, roast the grated coconut to a golden brown colour. place the spices in the blender. coarsely blend and store in a container and refrigerate.

ps - i made just 1/3 of what this recipe calls for as i don't cook south indian food more than a few times a month. the pitlai powder can also be used with various other south indian dishes which i will post about in the coming months as i am eager to use the powder!


Blogger gs said...

lulu,don't allow the pitlai podi stock to runout before i come over for wimbledon! and i must taste the sambhar too! i always thought we made the best sambhar in the world at home.

12:00 am  
Anonymous payal said...

hey lulu,
great post - it's always refreshing when people share great finds. i think i'll try this sambhar recipe along with the dosa recipe that indira posted on her site. i actually asked indira if she used hing in her recipes, and she said she does in some, but not in her sambhar. i see that the recipe you posted here uses hing, so i think i'll experiment a bit and try a half batch with and half batch without the hing to see if there's a difference. thanks again for your post and sharing this recipe.

12:12 am  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi payal,
we always use hing in both rasam and sambhar. i can't imagine either without hing but that's probably just habit. give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

9:52 pm  
Blogger Faffer said...

Hi Lulu,
I love "Araithuvitta Sambar". Would you please post the recipe for your Microwave-cooked Ladyfinger curry - looks good and I'm sure it uses much less oil than the traditional stovetop version.

Btw, am enjoying reading your culinary adventures in London.


1:16 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

hey lulu, i got the same results as u had mentioned. i use pitlai podi in most of the dishes. Try the kathrika rasa vaangi recipe from her book ( its in my blog too) ull just love it. Its yum with idlis and even rice. That was the first recipe i tired from her book and then on started cooking more of her recipes.

6:54 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi faffer
will post the vendakai recipe tomorrow. really sleepy now. glad to see you're still enjoying the blog.

hi priya
thanks for flagging the kathrika recipe. i was scanning all the recipes to find those that use the pitlai podi but with your recommendation, i'll try the kathrika dish first. ravnr

10:30 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi faffer,
making bhindi curry in the microwave is really simple. chop up lady's finger. add 1/2 or 1 tsp of oil, 1/4 tsp of turmeric, 1/4 tsp of chilli powder, some hing, 1/4 tsp of mustard. mix it all together. stick in the microwave for about 7 minutes. take out every few minutes and give it a twirl. i don't really know what level my microwave setting is on. it's all a bit andaaz, if you know what i mean. but it turns out great and you can't really tell that it hasn't been sauteed in loads of oil forever. do try it and let me know how it turns out.

6:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the recipe Lulu. I will surely try it and let you know how it turns out.


4:20 am  
Blogger Sandeep said...

This is the same recipe for sambhar masala that I used when I was living in Switzerland. My mom gave me the recipe in case I ran out of Sambhar powder - and in switzerland, its very difficult to find asian foodstuff.
And guess what, after I tried this, I never went back to packed sambhar masala!!!

5:41 am  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi sandeep,
nice to hear from you after so long. i totally know what you mean - i can't use sambhar packs anymore either. hope you are well!

6:11 pm  
Anonymous Viji Varadarajan said...

I am so glad you guys found that the pitlai podi has an authentic taste. This is a podi that I learnt to make and store in ziplock bags in the frig. The sambhar made with this and with dash of cumin powder tastes like truly good restaurant stuff. And, this is the sambar that tastes groovy with all the south indian tiffin (snack)dishes. And now everybody in my family believe I am right about the taste. Because originally sambar is made with sambar powder, blended at home.
Well you can use this pitlai podi with bisi bela, pahakkai (bitter gourd) pitlai, vaangi (eggplant) bath and kathirikkai (eggplant) rasa vaangi.

And Lulu you have made my day!

6:16 am  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi viji,
nice to hear from you again. your pitlai podi recipe is absolutely the best. and i do like adding the jeera powder to the sambhar as well. thanks for letting me know what else i can make using this podi. now i'm looking forward to trying more recipes from your cookbook!

11:50 pm  
Anonymous Viji Varadarajan said...

Hi folks!
Its is real nice to know that I can share my years of cooking with you all.
My next suggestion would be the Pooshinikai Mor Kootu and Yeruvalli kuzhambu that are truly good old fashioned dishes. They are main course for rice. Pooshinikai is Ash gourd but you can substitute it (if not available) with green squash (chayote squash) or with the north indian lauki (soraikka). Follow both the recipes step by step and you can never go wrong. Do come back to me if you have any doubts. Allow me to choose the dishes for you everytime you have done with each one of them.

1:12 pm  
Anonymous Roger said...

Thank for taking the effort to propagate the mystic qualities of the South Indian Sambhar. If I may add a small note to the folks trying to use this recipe is to substitute organic ingredients wherever possible. It really takes it a notch higher. I try doing sambhar with Organic Chana Dal, Organic toor dal and top it off with Orgainic Brown Rice. Of course comming across organic coocunt is difficult at least where I live. There are a few suppliers in the Chennai area who supply organic items at very reasonable price.

6:44 pm  
Blogger aishwarya said...

hi lulu thanks for ur sambhar recipe

6:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Made this sambar & just loved it... thanks a lot for the recipe...

11:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i tried this sambar as a LAST resort ..after trying MANY MANY sambar recipes..n i decided i will never try it ever again if THIS recipe fails..but it dint !!

it is the BEST recipe..n yes this is coming from a tamilian girl who has always eaten restaurant sambar n never made a homemade version . this is BETTER THAN saravana bhavans n annapoorna restaurants , put together ! thankyou lotssss!!

one tip: i used 1 BIG tomato ..which made it lil tangy n next time...i'l use a small one for the purfect flavour..

now if i could only get a proper idli recipe from either you Lulu , or ms. Viji Varadarajan..!! kindly help in this regard..but thanks a ton .my family is MIGHTY pleased !


5:22 pm  
Blogger padmum said...


I am the Editor and commentator of three books of Viji's that were re-issued in 2007 and 2008. I have coauthored her 4th book called Classic Tamil Brahmin Samayal that is just out on the bookshelves of sellers.

Try the Pitlai Podi with any vegetable--bhendi, cauliflower, beans varieties, cabbage, chow chow etc--with onions and tomatoes as well and serve it with roti or pulaos. It tastes great and you can use it more often! Add the garam masala too and get compliments.

Happy cooking.


3:25 pm  
Blogger Smita said...

i must tell you how lovely this recipe is and all I do it follow it exactly and I have wonderful aromatic sambhar....Its very very authentic. How did you manage to get a hold of this recipe?

5:39 pm  
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Anonymous Mita said...

Hi Lulu,

If using hing powder, how much would you suggest?

Many thanks

3:30 pm  

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