Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arachu-vitta Sambhar - Virundhu Saapadu Series

As a kid I never liked sambhar. I was the lone one battling it out on the rasam-team. But my tastes changed for the good and now the thing I miss the most is simple, home-made sambhar of amma. To tell you the truth, I miss my dad's version of sambhar more than my amma's - his sambhar has a very distinct taste to it and I can tell from just the aroma who made the sambhar. I miss dad :(

But one version of a sambhar that I liked even in my rasam-team days was the arachu-vitta sambhar. It has a unique flavor to it and is much thicker than normal sambhar; mainly due to the grated coconut paste that's added to it. This recipe is a typical Tirunelveli version. Usually sambhar is made with some kind of vegetable in it. My favorites are murungakkai (moringa) and mulangi (radish). Other variations include poosani kai (pumpkin), urlai kezhangu (potatoes), carrots and a very seasonal version with green mangoes...yum!

After a quick call to amma on Sunday morning, I was armed and ready with the ingredients. I had a couple of carrots completely forgotten in one corner of my fridge and I decided to put them to good use. What follows is a simple recipe of my amma's to make a sumptuous sambhar within 30 minutes.

Ingredients: (serves two)
Tuar dal - 3/4 cup
Tamarind paste - 3/4 tsp or 1/2 lemon sized chunk
Carrots (or any other vegetable of choice cut into big pieces) - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1/2 of a medium sized one
Tomatoes - 1/2 of a small one
Water - as needed
Salt - to taste

Dry masala powder:
Red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Sambhar powder - 2.5 tsp

For the masala paste:
Coconut (shredded) - 1 tbsp
Jeera - 1/4 tsp
Garlic - 2 or 3 cloves

For tempering:
Oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 5 or 6 nos
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

1. Wash the tuar dal at least 3 times in running water. Cook in a pressure cooker with 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp of oil and a pinch of turmeric for 2 whistles. Set on low and cook for another 10 minutes. Switch off and let the pressure release.
2. In the meantime, place the chopped vegetables in a small vessel with 1 cup water and enough salt for just the vegetables. Let it cook completely.
3. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 1/2 cup water. If using regular block tamarind, extract the tamarind juice using 1/2 cup water and filter it to remove impurities.
4. Grind the coconut, jeera and garlic with enough water to make a smooth paste in a blender.
5. Chop the onion and tomato into big chunks and set aside.
6. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind water, enough salt for the sambhar and wait for first boil. If you are using red chilli powder and coriander powder separately, add it now to the tamarind water and let it boil once more.
7. Check the pressure cooker if it is safe to open and mash it well with a thick spoon. Add the tamarind and vegetable mix to the dal and stir until well blended. Let it boil well for at least 3 minutes.
8. Now add the coconut paste to the sambhar and wait for first boil. If you are using the sambhar powder, add it not to the sambhar and check for salt. The sambhar is ready

1. Use the same vessel that was used to cook the vegetables. Add oil and once it is heated, splutter the mustard seeds, add the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. 
2. Then add the onions and fry until edges are slightly browned. Add the tomatoes and fry for just a minute or so. DO NOT over cook the tomatoes or over fry the onions.
3. Finally add the hing and turmeric and give it a quick stir. Top off the sambhar with the tempering and serve hot with steamed rice and side.

Soon to come...rotis, alu parathas and a post on southern Indian breakfast (idli & dosa)

1 comment:

  1. This seems to finish the job in the jiffy...we follow a more different way. Try it out next time. Making masala after dry roasting red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds garlic and coconut. Also there are 2 tadkas with mustard, urad dal, hing and curry leaves and the other one is my mother's secret with fenugreek and cumin...the latter has to be powdered ...just press with flat surface of a spoon after cooling and add to the gives a total heavenly smell :)