Traditional Sambar with Green Beans & Potatoes

What is this ‘Sambar’ of which I speak? It’s almost like a stew, lentil-based and chock full of veggies and protein (from the lentils, duh). It’s a dish traditionally cooked and found in south India, and it makes up an essential component of any traditional south Indian dinner, since it has nutrients in abundance.  Protein is hard to find in a vegetarian diet unless you’re into the fake meats, tofu, or such, all of which I kind of hate.

Generally, I make this sambar with French cut green beans, carrots, and baby onions, but last night, I was missing carrots.  (Here’s a good recipe for Carrot and Beans Sambar by Radhika, in India.) Instead, I substituted potatoes, which works just fine.  In fact, one of my favorite sambars is made with baby potatoes and baby onions. It’s cute and it’s tasty and it’s easy to make.

sambar
The basic recipe for a sambar is simple, and the veggies can be substituted as desired.  However, once you start getting into the leafy greens (spinach, for example), the spices vary slightly, and the dish is called ‘huli.’ Anyway, enough theory of Indian vegetarian cooking, here’s a recipe:

Green Beans and Potato Sambar

~Serves approximately 6~

  • 1/2 cup Toor dal (if you can’t find this in Shaws, try Shalimar in Central Square or the Indian Market in Coolidge Corner)
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped in cubes
  • French cut green beans, frozen – use the same volume of beans as potatoes
  • 1/2 extra large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. Tamarind paste/pulp (if you know how to soak and extract pulp)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2-3 tbsp Madras Sambar Powder
  • Salt – to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 Whole red chilli, dried or fresh
  • Asafoetida (a powder/spice that comes in a white plastic bottle)– 2 pinches
  • 2-3 Curry leaves
  • Coriander Leaves – for garnishing
  1. Clean Toor Dal (sift through and make sure no dark pieces are there) and either pressure cook it with 2 drops of Oil and turmeric – this makes it cook fast. Remove after 3 whistles and let it cool down – or add 1.5 cups of water, oil and turmeric in a small saucepan and let simmer on medium-high until the lentils absorb the water, soften and expand. Stir often to prevent sticking on bottom of the saucepan, and remove from flame once all the water is absorbed.
  2. Dice oniones, chop Potatoes to 1″ cubes, and remove beans from freezer and let needed amount defrost to room temperature.
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, and then add chopped onions. Sauté till they turn clear (are cooked), then add the can of tomatoes, mashing them with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the potatoes and let simmer until potatoes begin to soften.
  5. Then add the cooked toor dal (slightly mashed with wooden spoon), green beans, and  tamarind pulp.
  6. Add the sambar powder, red chilli powder, asafoetida, and salt.
  7. Cook on high flame for 5 mins, then simmer for 10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked well.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Happy Eating!

  • Have you ever made Sambar before?
  • If so, how do you normally make it? Do you use vegetables other than carrots, beans, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes?
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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Raj on December 9, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I will bookmark this!
    The only thing I do differently is the alternate way of doing the tempering/tadka/thalithal which is done after I’ve cooked the sambar. In a separate pan I splatter the mustard, cumin, curry leaves, asafoetida in oil before adding it to the finished sambar. I do the same with rasam. Its an extra step but I find it allows the oil to bubble on top rather than dissolve with the rest of the mixture, which is nice. I also chiffonade the curry leaves, which makes them easier to eat for those who have a habit of picking them out. Again, another useless step.

    Reply

    • Posted by Vieshnavi on December 9, 2010 at 9:18 am

      If I have time, I’ll do the spices that way – it’s how my mom does it too, in a separate pan and she adds it all at the end. For convenience and ease of cooking, I’ll just add it the way I wrote my recipe. It’s not too much of a difference, and it’s nice to save any time I can, especially right as finals are starting. I’ve never tried to chiffonade the curry leaves, maybe I’ll try that next time.

      Reply

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