indian cuisine
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Indian Cuisines

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Sambar

Sambar or sambhar is a dish common in South India and Sri Lankan cuisines, made of toovar dal.

Method

Sambar is essentially a pea and vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind and toovar dal, and is very popular in the cooking of southern regions of India especially Tamil Nadu. The toovar dal are cooked until they are crumbling. Tamarind pulp is soaked in water to extract the flavour and then discarded. A mixture of ground spices known as sambar powder (which contains roasted coriander seeds, chillies, lentils, and other spices) and tamarind are added to the dal. Vegetables and spices such as turmeric and chilli powder are also added. The dal and vegetable stew is heated until the vegetables cook. A wide variety of vegetables may be added to sambar. Typical vegetables include okra, drumstick, carrot, radish, pumpkin,Potatoes, tomatoes, Brinjal and whole or halved shallots or onions, but many different vegetables may be used with adequate results. Typically sambar will contain one or several seasonal vegetables as the main vegetables in the soup.

The cooked sambar is typically eaten with an oil-fried spice mixture containing items such mustard seeds, urad dal, dried red chillies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and asafoetida. Fresh curry leaves or coriander leaves may be added at the very end to enhance the flavor. Curry leaves in particular are an essential element of authentic sambar; their aroma and flavor provide sambar with a distinct and pleasant herbal essence.

Sambar is reflective of a broad and ancient tradition of dal-based vegetable stews in southern India. Many regions and families of the Indian subcontinent have developed and maintained their own adaptations of a dal and vegetable stew, and similar preparations are evident in such dishes known in local languages as rasam, charu, saaru, and pulusu. Most will be found to contain common elements of toor dal, tamarind, vegetables, sambar powder, and an oil-fried spice seed seasoning, although the soup can be made to have many different flavors depending on which vegetables and selection of spices are used.

Serving

Sambar is usually served with steamed rice. Sambar with rice is one of the main courses of both formal and everyday south Indian cuisine. In Tamil Nadu, vada sambar and idli sambar are popular for breakfast or lunch, and sambar is often served as a side dish at dinner.

Sambar is also served for lunch and dinner across all south indian restaurants in North India, commonly with idli, vada or dosa, along with two chutneys, a cool green coconut chutney and a mildly spicy red tomato chutney.

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