Monday, June 12, 2006

Bell pepper sambar

Mmm mmm MMMMM! The aroma of this sambar as it cooks is heavenly. Sambar can have any vegetable or any combination of vegetables used as thaan - I dont have an English equivalent for that Tamil word, but basically it refers to whatever vegetable is used to make the sambar. But there are a few vegetables that take the concept of sambar aroma to new heights of anticipatory salivation - call them the Niagara-makers of the mouth, if you will. (I anticipate that most of you wont, and even I wouldnt had I not come up with the phrase myself. It IS a bit ick, as similes go, but... you'll know what I MEAN, right?) Of course, that Niagara quality can happen with any any dish you're fond of, from any cuisine, while it's being cooked!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the vegetables that raise the status of an everyday sambar... well, IMHO, and not in any particular order, they are: Bell peppers, drumsticks (not the dead fowl kind) and okra. I'm sure everybody will have their favourite veggies - it would be nice to know who loves what best! - and I havent forgotten the ubiquitous onion. But those three vegetables dont need the support of onions to make a great sambar. In fact, I dont add onions when I use any of my three faves - it would be like gilding a (scented) lily.

Recipe for:
Bell pepper sambar


1 tsp tamarind paste, dissolved in 4 cups water
1 cup cooked mashed tuvar/toor dal
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), de-seeded and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 htsp sambar powder
2 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves
2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
3-4 dried red chillies
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cornflour/riceflour/wheat flour
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, torn, for garnish


1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, asafoetida powder, curry leaves and dried red chillies. Fry for about 30 seconds, or until the seeds finish popping.

2. Add the bell peppers and tomatoes and stir-fry on high for 2 minutes. Then add the sambar powder and stir for a minute more.

3. Turn down the heat and pour in the tamarind water. Stir well. Turn back the heat to high, and let the mixture come to a bubbling boil.

4. Now turn down the heat again and simmer the liquid till the bell peppers are soft and cooked and the tomatoes have broken down.

5. Dissolve the cornflour/rice flour/wheat flour in a little water and mix it with the mashed dal to make a pourable but thick paste.

6. Add this paste to the simmering liquid, along with salt to taste, and stir well, making sure there are no lumps.

7. Let the sambar simmer for 5-6 minutes longer, it should not be watery. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the sambar rest for a few hours to let the flavours meld.

8. Just before serving, re-heat the sambar well, add the fresh coriander leaves and serve hot over rice with any vegetable curry. It is also perfect as an accompaniment for dosas, idlis and vadais.


Mika said...

I agree with you Shammi. Capsicum sambar (esp green peppers) is in m top 3. Probably the first rank, followed by Radish sambar and then okra. Have you tried radish sambar (you have to withstand the cooking odor though)?

Of course, since I can't stop with the top 3, I have to add that red pumpkin sambar (parangikai) and pearl onion sambar also follow. I guess I am not a fan of drumstick sambar.

Anonymous said...

Pearl onion sambar - yup, that's on my list too, Mika I cant say I'm a mad fan of radish sambar, though... precisely because of the odour! :) But it's okay too, just further down on my list.

Vaishali said...

Niagara-makers of the mouth? Hahahaha... (That was cascading laughter, btw!!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Shammi,
I am a first timer here...I am a non-cook and tried this tdy and it came out really well. Thanks for a simple no-frills recipe! thats the way I like it!
I do have a problem with capsicum comes coated with a ton of wax bcz of which it takes longer to cook...I dont know how to take it off...i keep it under running warm to hot water for a minute and that doesnt seem to help.
Do you have ideas?