Sambar is an indispensable dish in a South Indian meal. It is a lentil based stew made with any vegetable along with spices. Variety of sambar is prepared in South Indian households on a daily basis and is eaten mixed with rice or as side dish for tiffin items like idli, dosa, pongal and so on.
At my mom’s place, though there were varieties of Sambar made. My favorite was Agathi Keerai Sambar. Agathi Keerai is also known as August Tree or Humming Bird Tree Leaves. It has got a bitter taste but has got lot of medicinal values. After my marriage and moving to different city, I hardly found the greens here. To satisfy my craving, the substitute I found was Methi Leaves or Fenugreek Leaves. Started making Sambar with the mild bitter tasting leaves and instantly fell in love with the taste. Now, I hardly miss Agathi Keerai Sambar.
I mostly make Sambar as a one pot dish using my small pressure cooker. I feel this method easier as the Sambar gets done in a jiffy. Delicious and my favorite, Vendhaya Keerai Sambar mixed with some hot steamed rice and any stir fried veggie or roasted potato/arbi or appalam as an accompaniment makes a hearty and fulfilling lunch.
Tur dal (Thuvaram paruppu) – 100 gms
Methi leaves – ½ of a big bunch
Small onion – 10 nos. (If using normal onion, use 1 medium sized)
Tomato – 1 big sized or 2 medium sized
Sambar powder – ¾ tbsp heaped
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Salt to taste
Tamarind – 1 big gooseberry sized ball
Water – 3 to 4 cups
Oil – 2 tsps + 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Methi seeds – ½ tsp (optional)
Hing (Asafoetida) – ½ tsp (optional)
Preparation time – 10 mins
Cooking time – 15 mins
Total time – 25 mins
Serves – 4
- Wash tur dal and let it soak in water until you are done with the prep work.
- Clean and wash the methi leaves discarding the thick stems. Wash the leaves and tender stems 2-3 times in water thoroughly to remove dirt or mud. Set it aside.
- Peel and chop onion and tomato. Also, roughly chop the methi leaves. Soak tamarind in ½ cup of water, extract juice and discard pulp.
- Heat oil in a small pressure cooker; add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the methi seeds too, if using. If you would want to give the tempering after the Sambar is done, just heat 1 tsp of oil and proceed to next step.
- Reduce the flame to medium and add the small onions and sauté well until translucent.
- Add the chopped tomato and sauté till they turn slightly mushy. Add the roughly chopped methi leaves and toss until they begin to wilt.
- Add the soaked tur dal, turmeric powder, sambar powder, salt to taste along with 2 cups of water. Mix well. Cover with the lid and pressure cook for 2 whistles and then, lower the flame and cook for 7-10 mins.
- Let the pressure release. Open the lid and add tamarind extract and let it boil until the raw smell of tamarind vanishes and the sambar comes to a rolling boil. To get the right Sambar consistency, add more boiling water if needed at this stage.
- This step is optional. You can skip the tempering in step 4. Instead prepare and add the tempering at the end. For the tempering, heat 1 or 1 ½ tsps of oil in a tadka pan. Add mustard seeds, let it crackle. Add hing, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Immediately, pour the tempering over the sambar.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot.
Serve this delicious Methi Leaves Sambar or Vendhaya Keerai Sambar with rice and any vegetable of your choice.
- My 1 cup measures 200 ml.
- You can add the tempering at the start (refer to step 4 or at the end once the Sambar is done just before serving (step 9)).
- Add the tamarind extract only after the vegetables are cooked. Vegetables may remain uncooked if the extract is added earlier.
- You can use chilli powder and coriander powder mixed in equal quantity instead of sambar powder too. Adjust the spice level depending on your family’s preference.
- I normally add coriander leaves to the Sambar at the end; however I skip it while making Vendhaya Keerai Sambar in order to enjoy the flavor to the fullest.
- Adding hot water to an already prepared dish to adjust the gravy consistency will not alter the taste of the dish. Hence, recommend adding boiling water in step 8, if required.
- After opening the cooker, you can use the back of a ladle to mash and get a homogeneous consistency.