Wednesday, March 29, 2006

what is a good sambar?

I love sambar. Hello, it is not a deer. Sambar is a curry, a gravy with lots of lentils and vegetables, slightly sour and oh so aromatic. Yumyum…….. But which is the original sambar? Anyone know anything about the history of sambar? I have eaten many types of sambar from the time I was a kid. I thought my Periamah’s sambar was so aromatic. She would grind the fennel, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in the ‘ammi’ or grinding stone and incorporate these into the boiling dhall. She used a firewood stove; the pot will be so black on the outside and the inside is where one of the most delicious sambar would be boiling. My mother used to make her sambar quite thick, with lots of tur dhall; she would sometimes add a handful of mung dhall to thicken it as she said. We, Singaporean Indians hardly rely on the pressure cooker. The advantage of boiling dhall in a pot is that you get this aroma of the dhall and garlic wafting from the kitchen and permeating into every room of the house and the outside. The hunger will start about 1 hour before the sambar is made. An aunt used to add a bit of coconut milk to her sambar to ‘sweeten’ it as she said; another Malaysian Indian friend of mind would fry some pounded dried prawns and add to her keerai sambar……..very delicious.
Then of course the vengaya (shallots) sambar of Saravana Bhavan in India is drinkable.
Nowadays, I see more of the restaurants using pumpkin pieces in their sambar, I guess it is to sweeten the gravy naturally instead of using jaggery like some would do. I do hate the MTR kind of sambar, unless of course the person grinds the masala herself/himself instead of relying on the plastic bag.
The sambar I once had at a railway station in Kerala is very memorable too. Someone told me that it must be the Palagat brahmin’s style of sambar. I could smell lots of asafetida (perungayam) but it was so sumptious. Another friend of mine said he had a good sambar in Coimbatore. He said the sambar was of blackish green (very unappetizing to look at it it seems) but he also said that it was the best sambar he has ever had in his entire life. Apparently, a lot of ground coriander leaves and grilled onions were ground and added to the sambar. Sambar with radish and drumsticks ….mmmmmm mind blowing.
I love my sambar with lots of potatoes. When eating, I will mash the potatoes lightly on my plate and pour the sambar over it, add a teaspoon of good ghee or butter and just eat. No need for rice! Or have a meal of hot sambar, fried dried fish and a vegetable poriyal.
My husband says a good sambar must be runny; I like it thick and so the argument about the best sambar never end as you may have something to say too.


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revatechnic said...

this is reva commenting with some good saambar beside her..
you know from where..

Devagi Sanmugam said...

Reva!! Are you in Hyderabad or Madras? Wherever you are in the South I am sure you will get a good sambar. As for me, I made a keerai sambar today and fried the selar kuning.....the yellow striped fish..yumyum

sailu said...

I love my sambar to be runny when I have it with tiffins and thick when eaten with rice..:)

Shpriya said...

Thks for visiting my blogsite. saw ur comment only now. :) From my experience sambar should neither be thin or thick. It should be at the right consistency to be mixed with rice and eaten. isnt it? :)

Phoenix said...

Juz had the time 2 read ur blog.. it's great.. I luv cooking, i oni wish i had more time 2 explore.
I've bot couple of ur cookbooks n mi cooking's improved tremendously..
Hmm.. Sambar is one of mi fav but somehow i can't get the taste right.. i always find that something's missing.. I get frustrated wen i can't put the finger 2 wats wrong.. sigh..
In fact i bot the south indian cook book, followed ur recipe but something's still not right.. grr..
Sambar wif tahu sambal.. mi mouth's watering already.. but another of mi weakness is sambal.. can't seem to get the right taste too.. but i shall not give up.. i'll keep trying till i get right..

shajith said...

hi, it interesting to read your posting as I am avid collector of recipes. Green Sambar, you are mentionining is Rayar Sambar, which is famous in the places like, Thanjavoor, Kumbakonam etc.

Your sambar method is the same we follow in the Coimbatore areas.

Adding pouding dried prawns in keerai sambar method can be followed while making fish curry, as Keralite restaurants using

Devagi Sanmugam said...

shajith, thanks for the information on the Rayar sambar. What is Rayar? Is it the name of a town or people or a person?

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Vaishali said...

I learnt to make one of the authentic versions of Sambar only after I got married to a South Indian. At my mother's place, it always used to be made with readymade Sambar Masala. (I am a Maharashtrian.) Now that I have learnt the recipe of Sambar and Sambar powder from my mother-in-law, I don't even touch the readymade spice blends. The funniest part is that my father has now kinda got addicted to the taste of Sambar made by me. So much for good ol' Sambar.

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mandelism said...

Hello, first timer here :) nice blog.
Ur post making me hungryyyy...havent had lunch yet huhu. looove sammbar wei :( with uuurekkaaa!

Name : Townguy said...

wow, i ate sambar all this time without knowing , there is lots of things cloud the sambar .

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'I am not a paranoid student' said...

Dear Devagi Sanmugam,

Your articles are great and I really enjoyed reading each one of them. Please continue posting more stories and receipes! If I want to contact you, how can I do that? Is it possible to get your email address?

-Suguna (