Sambar is a traditional south Indian dish made with some kind of vegetable, pigeon peas/Toor dal with a special sambar masala. All this is cooked in tangy tamarind to make this everyday comfort food . This dish brings back many memories.
Growing up it was part of our everyday cooking especially our Sunday lunch was incomplete without the bubbling vengaya sambar in the kachitti and potato fry. We all circle around the TV eagerly waiting for Mahabharatham, shaktiman and stone boy serials and enjoy the meal together. Seems like y’day.
Kachiti or Kalchatti/கல்ச்சட்டி ( soapstone pots) as it is popularly known were traditionally used in South Indian cooking. Kalchattis are vessels made out of soapstone, a naturally occurring soft stone.
It is largely composed of the mineral talc and is thus rich in magnesium. It is also popularly used for sculpting and stone carving. Some fun facts about soapstone can be found here Soapstone pots have thick walls and are heavy that allows slow and even cooking. Traditionally used on wood stoves, these are safe to be used on the modern gas stove ( I am not sure about the coil cooktops).
I have seen my mom cook sambar, vathakuzhambu pitlai, aviyal, mor kuzhambhu and many more items with the kalchatti.
I almost never make my samabar, that pairs with Rice, with sambar powder 🙂 . I always grind my fresh sambar masala, it’s just how I am used to. My home made sambar powder is mainly used for idli sambar and vathakuzahabu, puli kuzhambu etc…..
Onion Sambar with fresh masala
- Shallots / chinna vengaym – whole pealed and washed
- Tamarind – 2 tbs or 1 cup depending on the sourness of the tamarind
- Toor dal – 1/2 cup cooked
- Turmeric – 1 tsp
- Water 2 cups or as needed
- Salt to taste
- Jaggary – 1/2 tbs
- Curry leaves – 1 stand
- Oil – 2 tbs
- Mustard seeds – 2 tsp
For Sambar Masala:
- Channa Dal – 1 tbs
- Dhaniya – 2-3 tbs
- Coconut – 2-3 small pieces or 3 tbs of grated coconut
- Red chillis – 3 nos
- Bedigai chillis – 2 nos
- Jeera – 1 tsp
- Methi seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Couple of small onions or 1/4 of medium sized onion.
- Oil – 1 tsp
- Pressure cook the Toor dal while the rest of the items are prepped.
- Roast all the sambar masala ingredients separately till golden brown and the aroma releases.
- After it cools down grind the mixture into a smooth paste. Add water as needed.
- In a think bottomed pan add little oil and add the peeled onions. Let it cook till it becomes translucent. Add a little salt to speed up the cooking.
- Add the tamarind paste( add water as needed) and turmeric and let it boil.
- Once the mixture boils add in the ground paste to it and let it all cook for 5-10 minutes in slow to medium flame. The mixture should bubble and the raw onion smell should be gone.
- Mash up the cooked toor dal and add it to the mixture.
- Add salt as needed and jaggary. Let the mixture or another 5 minus in low-med flame.
- Once it boils to form a frothy layer turn off the heat.
- In a separate pan heat the rest of the oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves crackle and season the sambar.
- If you are using fresh tamarind water instead of the paste make sure that the raw smell of tamarind is gone before adding the ground masala.
- Do not over cook the onions else they will dissolve
- You can use any vegetable /vegetables of your choice
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