Sambar is a popular and flavorful South Indian dish that is widely consumed in Kerala and other states. It is a lentil-based vegetable stew that is made with a combination of lentils, tamarind, vegetables, and a unique blend of spices. Sambar is typically served as an accompaniment to rice, idli (steamed rice cakes), dosa (fermented crepes), or vada (fried lentil fritters). Here are some key points about Sambar:
- Ingredients: The main ingredients used in Sambar include lentils (usually toor dal or pigeon peas), tamarind pulp (for tanginess), a variety of vegetables such as drumstick, carrot, pumpkin, eggplant, and okra, and a blend of spices and seasonings. The spices commonly used in Sambar include mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, turmeric, red chili powder, and sambar powder (a spice mix specific to Sambar).
- Preparation: To prepare Sambar, the lentils are cooked until soft and mashed. Meanwhile, the vegetables are chopped and cooked separately. The tamarind pulp is added to the lentils along with the cooked vegetables. A spice blend is prepared by roasting and grinding the spices, and it is added to the lentil-vegetable mixture. The Sambar is then simmered until the flavors meld together.
- Taste and Texture: Sambar has a unique blend of flavors. It has a tangy and slightly sour taste from the tamarind, which is balanced by the earthy flavors of lentils and the spiciness of the spices. The addition of vegetables adds freshness and texture to the stew. Sambar can range in spiciness depending on personal preference and the amount of chili powder used.
- Serving: Sambar is typically served hot as an accompaniment to rice, idli, dosa, or vada. It is often drizzled over the rice or served in a separate bowl alongside the main dish. It can be topped with ghee (clarified butter) for added richness and flavor. Sambar is also enjoyed as a soup or a light meal on its own.
- Variations: Sambar has many regional variations across South India, with slight differences in ingredients and spice blends. In Kerala, Sambar is known for its distinctive taste and use of local spices. Some variations may include the addition of coconut paste or grated coconut, which adds richness to the stew.
- Nutritional Benefits: Sambar is a nutritious dish as it combines lentils, vegetables, and spices. Lentils are a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, and minerals. The addition of vegetables provides essential vitamins and minerals. The spices used in Sambar, such as turmeric and cumin, have potential health benefits.
Sambar is a versatile and comforting dish that is loved for its rich flavors and nutritional value. It is a staple in Kerala cuisine and holds a prominent place in South Indian culinary traditions.