SAmbAr Varieties

When you think of south Indian dishes, sAmbAr is an integral part of it. Normally, it is a single entity but by adding spices and vegetables, we make varities but all have the same characteristics. It is used with cooked rice or as a side dish for idli, adai and dOSA. In this posting I am mentioning the main features, leaving the creativeness to you.

 Normal SAmbAr

 To serve: 3 Preparation time: 30 minutes   Shelf life: 1 day  



Split gram dAl (tUr)



Curry leaves     

Chilli powder

Coriander powder

Red chilli (optional)



Turmeric powder           


Vegetable (any one or mixed)

(like carrot, radish, ladies finger, onion

brinjal, drum stick, pumpkin, ash gourd,

capsicum, tomato)



½ cup

½ tsp

½ tsp


1 tsp

1½ tsp

2 or 3

to taste

small lemon size

¼ tsp

¼ tsp

a few pcs





Pressure cook the Split gram dAl adding 1 glass of water and a little turmeric powder. Boil the vegetable pieces in water till they submerge fully under it, adding a little turmeric powder and keep aside with the water in which they were boiled. Extract the juice from tamarind by adding 1 to 1½ cups of water as the case may be and keep aside. If the water in the vegetables after they are boiled is more, then adjust the water for tamarind extract by reducing it, say to 1 or less than 1 cup. If there is not enough water after the vegetables are boiled (since ash gourd and pumpkin absorb more water), then increase the water for tamarind extract, say, to more than 1 cup up to 1½ cups.  Heat the oil in a pan and add mustard and after it splutters, add fenugreek with curry leaves. Sauté for a few seconds and add the tamarind extract, salt, asafoetida, chilli cum coriander powders along with the boiled vegetable with its water. Let this boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Finally add the cooked dAl and after allowing the whole to boil for another 5 minutes or till the required consistency is attained.   Switch off the flame. Add 1 tablespoon of ghI and mix. Those who want the sAmbAr hotter can add red chilli pieces while sautéing mustard. I add ½ tsp sugar, to enhance the taste and balance the sour taste.


Carrot, radish, capsicum normal SAmbAr


1. In place of split gram dAl, you can use masUr dAl or green gram dAl. These two dAls will become paste if pressure cooked as such you need to boil them on the flame directly with water in a vessel till they are cooked.

Since these dAls are sweeter and cannot take more chilli, we do not use chilli powder but only green chilli pieces with tomato and onion pieces which we sauté with mustard. This sAmbAr can be either of normal type or “araiththu viTTa” (masAlA) type. Remember also that we reduce the tamarind extract considerably since we are using tomato, which is also sour in taste.  This sAmbAr, if too sour will not taste good.

Other ingredients and the method are the same as detailed above.

Onion, tomato & green chilli mung dAl SAmbAr

2. I never use sAmbAr powder and if you want, you can add 2 tsp sAmbAr powder in place of the chilli and coriander powders. Anyway, I have provided you with its traditional recipe. 

3. Remember that fenugreek and asafoetida only make sAmbAr great.  However we do not add asafoetida to the sAmbAr which has drumstick, onion or radish as these have their own distinct smell.

4. When you use onion, use the small one called “PatNam vengAyam” to have nice smell and taste.  

5. One or two green chillies added to the sAmbAr make it spicier, even though invariably it is added to tomato sAmbAr.

6. The onion kurmA we get for idli in the hotel is nothing but small onion sAmbAr where the cooked dAl is very little in quantity and is added as a paste with a few powdered aniseeds. In this, the tamarind extract is also very dilute so as not to make it sour and it is not very hot.

 SAmbAr Powder

Those who feel that SAmbAr can be tastier with SAmbAr powder need not buy the inferior ones available in the market but prepare a better one at home as follows: 

For this you need: 


Red chilli (Hot variety)

Black pepper

Bengal gram dAl

Split gram dAl


Coriander seeds

Turmeric (longer variety)



100 gms (Remove stem at the top)

1 tbs    

1 tbs

1 tbs

1 tsp

150 gms

4 (broken into small pcs) 


Keep them in hot sun to dry and remove moisture. If the weather is cloudy, then you can just heat these in a KaDAi for a few minutes to make them dry. Mix all and grind them into fine powder.  A few curry leaves are also added by some people.

Today’s special Tips

1. Instead of just adding the curry leaves, tear or gently crush them by hand and add so as to release their aroma.

2. We add nei (ghI) to the sAmbAr or rasam before serving to avoid serving it individually. This practice can be followed for dAl rice also, where it is added to the cooked dAl directly instead serving over the cooked rice.

3. In case you had added more chilli powder or chilli to an item and it is very hot, by adding some more oil or ghI you can bring down the hotness. Adding a little flour will reduce the hotness if you still find it to be so. The extra flour added also removes excess salt.

4. Remember that we make curries that are solid for rasam rice which is loose in contrast, whereas for sAmbAr rice that is hard, we need to make KUttus, being loose. This also enables us to relish these properly.

  (To continue)

2 Responses to “SAmbAr Varieties”

  1. Wow amma the first picture looks awesome !!! with the thinly sliced mullangi floating around along with other colourful veggies 🙂

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