• Toor Dal/Red gram – 1 cup rinsed
  • Sambar onions/shallots – 15 peeled and chopped or 1 big onion chopped
  • Tomatoes – 2 chopped
  • Drumstick – 1 chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • Brinjal/Eggplant – 2 quartered and soaked in water
  • Tamarind – a lemon sized ball soaked in 1-1/2 cups water
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Asafoetida – a pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh Coriander leaves – few for garnishing
  • Oil – 2 tbsp + 1 tsp for the spice paste

Spice Paste Ingredients

  • Whole dry red chillies – 7
  • Coriander seeds / Dhania – 3 tbsp
  • Fenugreek seeds/Vendhayam – ½ tsp
  • Channa Dal/Kadalai paruppu – 2 tbsp
  • Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Grated Copra/Grated Coconut – 3 tbsp

Ingredients for tempering

  • Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  • Cumin – ½ tspCurry leaves – 1 stem
  • Whole Dry red chilli – 1 broken in half
  • Ghee/Oil – 1-1/2 tbsp


  1. Rinse toor dal in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Transfer the rinsed toor dal to a pressure cooker. Add salt and asafoetida and around 1-3/4 cups water. Mix well. Close and pressure cook for 3 whistles or 15 minutes till the dal is soft and can be easily mashed with a ladle. Mash and set aside.
  2. While the dal is cooking, soak the tamarind in water and salt to it. Squeeze the tamarind to extract the juices. Discard the pulp. Set aside the tamarind extract.
  3. To a pan, add 1 tsp oil and when hot, add all the spice paste ingredients except the coconut and roast on low till a nice aroma emanates and the channa dal starts colouring. Add the grated copra/coconut and fry for a further 2 minutes till the coconut is dry and is starting to brown. Switch off. Let cool slightly and then grind to a fine powder.
  4. To a pot/kadai, add 2 tbsp oil and when hot add the chopped onions and fry till they turn translucent. Throw in the tomatoes and cook till they turn soft. Then throw in the chopped vegetables and mix well. After a minute, add the tamarind extract and turmeric powder and let it come to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes or till the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  5. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the ground spice powder and stir well to break up lumps. Alternately, add a ladle of the boiling tamarind extract to the ground spice powder, stir to incorporate and break up lumps. Then pour this mixture back into the pot and stir well. Let simmer for about 3 minutes for the flavours to blend. Then add the mashed dal and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cook on low till the sambar comes to a boil. When it comes to a boil, switch off and give it a good stir.
  6. To a small kadai/pan, add the ghee or oil for tempering. When hot, add the mustard seeds. Once they’ve spluttered, add the cumin, urad dal/black gram, red chilli and curry leaves. When the urad dal turns light brown, switch off. Pour this tempering mixture along with the ghee/oil over the sambar and give it a good stir. Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves on top of the sambar but don’t stir it in when hot. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Recipe credits :