The past couple weeks have been crazy busy. First baby Vishnu came down with bronchitis, then the older two kids caught throat infections and were home from school for four whole days and I inevitably caught a cold while fasting for Skanda Shasti Viratham.
Skanda Shasti Viratham is a six-day fast dedicated to the Hindu God, Murugan who is also referred to as Skanda, Karthikeya, Subramanium, and Arumugam. This is my 9th year fasting (I skipped one year while I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter) and I usually eat one light vegetarian meal for the first five nights, a small meal of fruit and milk on the sixth night, and break the fast on the morning of the seventh day by cooking and eating delicious vegetarian fare consisiting of rice and curries. This year due to everyone being sick, and Vishnu hardly sleeping at night, I decided to make sambhar, brown rice, and papadums to commemorate the end of the Skanda Shasti Viratham.
Sambhar, a very popular vegetarian Tamil dish, is essentially a spicy and sour vegetable and lentil stew. I never particularly enjoyed sambhar as a child or even teen, but during my pregnancy with Vishnu, sambhar sort of grew on me and I actually kind of enjoy eating it now. Sambhar is ridiculously easy to prepare and it is quite nutritious too. The vegetables used can be varied for to suit your tastes or you can use whatever you have in your fridge, making this the perfect dish for when you are short on ingredients, time, or both. I use a freshly ground sambhar powder to make my sambhar and the recipe for the sambhar powder is included below. Sri-Lankan or Indian grocery stores carry a ready-made mix but I highly recommend making your own because the taste and aroma of a homemade mix is incomparable to any ready-made mix.
- 1/2 cup tur dhal (thuvarum parippu)
- 1/2 cup masoor dhal (mysore parippu)
- 3 cups of cold water for cooking dhal
- 1/2 large tomatoe, chopped
- 1/2 cup red potatoes chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup yardlong beans (payathangai), chopped
- 1/2 cup orange pumpkin, chopped
- 5 shallots, halved
- 1 strawberry size piece of tamarind paste and 1/2 cup warm water for soaking
- 3 cups of water
- 2 Tbsp Sambhar powder (recipe follows)
- 1.5 Tbsp Sri-Lankan roasted curry powder
- 3 Tbsp. thick coconut milk
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 dried red chillies
- 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, cleaned and dried
- 5 shallots chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp ghee
- salt to taste
- In a pan, heat the ghee on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chillies, curry leaves, chopped shallots, and garlic. Stir continuously until the shallots turn brown and seeds begin to sputter. Immediately take off the heat and set aside.
- Rinse the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear. In a small pot over medium-heat, add the lentils and 3 cups of cold water. Cook covered, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking on the bottom, until the lentils are mushy. Once the lentils have cooked, you can mash the lentils using a potato masher or leave the lentils as is. I like to mash half and leave half as is for texture. Set aside.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add 3 cups cold water, shallots, potatoes, tomatoes, yardlong beans, and pumpkin, along with the curry powder and sambhar powder. Cook covered until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork.
- In the meantime, soak the tamarind paste in the half cup of water. Combine the tamarind paste and water with your fingers and discard any seeds or outer shell.
- Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind juice, mashed lentils, coconut milk and required salt to the pot. Stir and cook for an additional five minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the tempered ingredients and give the sambhar a quick stir.
- Serve warm.
Sambhar Powder RECIPE
- 10 red dried chillies
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp channa dal (kadalai parippu)
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 sprig curry leaves, washed and dried
- In a pan on medium heat, dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves until they all turn a shade darker and release their aromas. Set aside.
- Dry roast the red dried chillies until they release a smoky aroma. Take care not to burn the chillies. Set aside
- Dry roast the channa dal until it turns light brown. This will take a few minutes.
- Once all the ingredients (minus the turmeric), have been roasted, let them all cool down to room temperature. Grind all ingredients into a fine powder. Add the turmeric powder and blend well.
- Store in an air-tight container and use as needed.
- Serve sambhar warm with rice, stringhoppers, idli, or dosa.
- I use a mix of tur dahl and masoor dahl for my sambhar as this combination provides great flavour and texture, but you can easily use any lentils that you have on hand.
- Carrots, eggplant, okra, yam, drumstick, and beans are all wonderful additions to sambhar.
- If the sambhar is too thick for your taste, simply add a little bit of water and mix until your desired consistency is reached.
- Only add salt and tamarind juice once the vegetables are cooked or they will prevent vegetables such as yardlong beans from cooking.
- Always use fresh and aromatic spices when making your own spice mixes.
If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below!