1. Cut shallots in half if they are large.
2. Wash the toor dal and cook the lentils in a large sauce pan with turmeric and 3 cups of water until the lentils are soft. Mash the cooked lentils with a wooden spoon and set aside.
3. In another pan, add oil and, over medium heat, fry the shallots and drumsticks for two minutes. Add tomatoes and fry for 10 minutes. Next, add 2 cups of water and some salt. Let it boil for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
4. Transfer the vegetables to the simmering lentils.
5. Mix the tamarind paste with 1 tablespoon of water. Add the diluted tamarind paste to the pot. Mix well. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
6. Grind the Sambar Podi (also called Sambar Powder) with the coconut.
7. Stir the ground Sambar Podi and coconut mixture into the pot. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
8. To make the seasoning, heat the butter in a sauce pan to melt it. Add mustard seeds. When they pop, add 2 or 3 dried red chiles, fenugreek and curry leaves. When the sambar is thick, remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
9. Fresh and canned drumsticks can be found in at the Indian grocery stores; however, the fresh ones have a far better flavor.
- Make your own Sambar Podi (powder) so your Sambar has the best possible flavor. It is available in packets from all Indian stores which can be used in a pinch.
- If fresh drumsticks are not available, use frozen.
- Handfuls of sliced okra or vellarika (yellow cucumber) are frequently added to this dish instead of drumsticks.
1 cup toor dal
6 drumsticks, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chiles
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tbs tamarind paste
2 tsp Sambar Podi
2 Tbs coconut, grated
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Tbs butter
Sambar is a recipe unique to south India. It is frequently served in north Indian restaurants but it is thin and watery. If you can find a restaurant that specializes in south Indian cuisine, try the Sambar as it will be delicious. This recipe yields a rich and thick vegetable stew that makes a great lunch or dinner item when served with plain rice and pappadams. It is also served with Idli or Dosa.