A secret passed on from Mother to Daughter

All of us have that one dish that come what may, whoever else makes it, it’s never perfect. It has to be made by your mom and no one else. One such dish for me is the sambhaar she makes. I grew up having sambhaar every week either with rice, dosa, vada or idli. Being a south indian that hardly surprising. Given that I was so used to having sambhaar in my daily diet, I asked my mom to write down the recipe for me before I came to the US 4 years ago. And guess what she wrote down the recipe but since she never actually made the sambhaar based on measurements or a recipe, she never gave me the measurements either. But I guess it’s in my genes, and I managed to make a pretty decent sambhaar based on the measurement less recipe. But I decided that I am going to put down the recipe on paper someday. And then Cook, Eat and Relax happened and then a good friend of mine, Amol, asked me if I would ever be blogging about sambhaar. I promised him that I would, so here goes my version of my Mom’s Sambhaar from scratch. I do not use the readymade sambhaar masala that you get at the store. I make the masala from scratch just like mom used to.

Also my blog crossed the 1000 hits mark on the 21st Dec 2010. Thank you everyone who’s visited my blog, I hope I can keep it interesting so that you continue to read about my adventures in the kitchen. So to mark the special occasion I am going to blog about a this special recipe that’s very close to my heart. One which takes me back to my mom’s kitchen in an instant. This recipe takes about an hour from start to finish, a little more or less depending on how ready you can keep the ingredients before you start.


  1. 3/4 cup toor dal (split pigeon pea)
  2. 1/2 cup chopped eggplants (1″ pieces)
  3. 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded coconut (frozen or fresh)
  4. 4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  5. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  6. 5 dried red chillies
  7. 1/2 onion
  8. 3 garlic cloves
  9. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon urad dal (black lentils skinned and split)
  12. 1 dried red chilli
  13. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  14. 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  15. salt to taste
  16. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves


  • Wash the split pigeon pea and cook in ample amount of water.
  • In the meanwhile fry the 5 dried red chillies, 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida, coriander seeds and the fenugreek seeds in a saucepan.
  • Chop the onion into big chunks and add it along with the garlic cloves to the slightly browned whole spices.
  • Let the onions turn slightly pink, then add the grated coconut. Fry this entire mixture taking care that the coconut does not get too brown.
  • Set this aside till cool enough to make a paste in a food processor. Add enough water to make a smooth paste with no chunks in it.
  • Fry the eggplant cubes in a little oil till they are almost cooked. Add these cooked/slightly fried eggplant pieces into the cooked dal.
  • Place the dal back on the gas on low heat.
  • Add the turmeric powder, tamarind paste and salt and bring to boil.
  • Add the masala paste to this (add a little at a time so that you can adjust the taste based on what you like) and let the mixture come to a boil.
  • You may need to add some more tamarind paste, salt or red chili powder depending on how you like your sambhaar.
  • Simmer the sambhaar for about 5-10 minutes so that the dal and masala paste and completely cooked together.
  • Set the sambhaar aside and add a teaspoon of oil to a small pan. Once the oil is hot, add the black mustard seeds. Once the seeds sputter add the urad dal, 1 red chili and the asafoetida.
  • Once the urad dal is slightly brown, add this (tadka) to the sambhaar. Garnish the sambhaar with coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot with rice, dosa, vada or idli.

This recipe lasts me for a couple of meals. A couple of nights back we had the sambhaar with vada for dinnner and then with dosa for the lunch on the next day. I just drink the sambhaar like soup also anyways so this recipe may actually last you for more than just 2 meals for two persons. You can substitute the eggplant with okra, small onions or almost any other vegetables. I do not put too much anyways as I do not like the sambhaar to be too thick. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you like it, all credit to my mom.

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