How to make Sambar – Tirunelveli Style | Step by Step Recipe | Lunch Box Series : LBS#61

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Being from South of India, Sambar is almost a staple for us at home. Though in Andhra sambhar is not supposed to be a native dish. Yet these days it’s quite common to hear it being prepared frequently. But when you talk about Tamil Nadu and the way Sambar is made, well it’s inevitable that there are many ways to make this simple dish.

Even though I make Sambar almost twice or thrice at times a week, I was still tempted to learn the way this sambar was made by my colleague’s mom. They hail from Tirunelveli, and this is the way they make their sambar. I am sure even this might vary from other families from the same city. Tirunelveli is famous for its Tirunelveli Halwa. I was happy knowing another delicacy from the place.

When I finally made it at home, I did forget some and by practice added some. Like my friend said they normally don’t add tomatoes. But then I got it confirmed from her mom that tomato can be added. Well it’s all what’s available at hand finally I guess. Still this had lots of different steps involved. It tasted great with steaming Rice. I took this for my lunch and had fun.

Step By Step Pictures

Heat a pan with oil, saute shallot onions, Brinjal pieces, Green chilies till they turn light brown.

Add chopped tomatoes

In another pan, add 1 tsp oil, roast coconut, cumin seeds, shallot onions and 1/2 tsp bengal gram

Allow it to cool.

Meanwhile, stir the mashed tomatoes, add red chili powder, Coriander powder.

Next goes the tamarind extract and salt to taste

Bring it to boil

Add cooked toor dal to the pan, add required amount of water.

Make a smooth paste with the roasted ingredients. Add to the boiling dal.

Finally season it with curry leaves, methi seeds, Hing, Urad dal and mustard seeds.

Ingredients Needed:

Toor Dal, cooked – 1 cup
Tamarind extract – 2 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Shallot onions – 4
Tomato – 1 medium
Green chilies – 1 medium
Red chili  powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder a pinch
Brinjal – 3 medium
Oil – 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Water – 2 cups

For the Ground paste

Coconut – 2 tbsp
Cumin Seeds – 1/2 tsp
Shallot Onions – 3

For Seasoning

Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek Seeds – 1/4 tsp
Asofoetida / Hing – a pinch
Curry leaves – 4- 5

Method to prepare:

Pressure cook Toor dal with twice its amount of water til soft. Keep it aside.

In a bowl soak Tamarind and extract the pulp from it. If you want you can mix the red chili powder, coriander powder and salt in this water and keep it aside. I normally prefer to add to the dal directly.

To make the ground paste:
In a separate pan, add 1 tsp oil, roast chopped Coconut, Cumin seeds, Small Onions and little Bengal gram. Allow it to Cool and grind to a smooth paste using water. This can be added raw but I wanted the roasted aroma of the coconut.

To make the Sambar:

In a pan, add shallot onions, brinjal pieces and green chilies. Sauté well.

Then add chopped tomatoes and fry till it’s soft. Then add the Red chili powder, Coriander powder, tamarind extract and salt.

Simmer for 5 mins for everything to get cooked well. Then add the cooked dal, bring to boil.

Then add the ground paste required water to get required consistency.

Seasoning the Dal
Finally season by heat a pan with oil, add a pinch of hing, Curry leaves, methi seeds, Urad dal, mustard seeds. Pour this over the boiling dal.

Enjoy with Steaming Rice and vegetables.

Different vegetables like Radish, Drumstick can be used.
You can make instant spice powder by roasting Dry Red chili, Coriander Seeds and Bengal Gram and powdering it to be added directly.
Tomatoes can be avoided if you want.

Check out other Rasam, Sambar, Kuzhambu 

How to make Sambar - Tirunelveli Style | Step by Step Recipe | Lunch Box Series : LBS#61

Course Lunch Box, Main Dish - Gravies
Cuisine Tamil Nadu
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. Reminds me of the sambhar we have at my paati s place. We make sambhar like this on Pongal with all the vegetables that are offered to the Sun God. We call is " KOLAKARI" meaning a mixture of all vegetables.

  2. just wondering how different it is from the tanjore/madurai tamil style sambhar. Got to try it to know the difference. Makes a good addition to the variety while serving. Thanks for the recipe Valli. Am all set to try this!

  3. Sambhar can be made in different ways I guess. In Karnataka it is called Huli and We love it. I will try this way and I am sure we will enjoy it with rice or idli. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am sure that you have loads of patience.. I can feel the aroma of the roasted ingredients and the sambar… wow..

  5. Different one Srivalli. Just wanted to tell you about cooking acidic ingredients in aluminum pan. Aluminum reacts with tamarind, tomato and other acidic ingredients mixing with the food. They suggest not to cook those in the aluminum pan. Just passing on the info.

  6. Thank you everybody!

    Champa Thanks for the information. I did read on this and understand that only storing the cooked food that has tamarind in an aluminum vessel is more hazardous to health. I guess cooking dissolves very permissible amount of aluminum. Still will check around how to avoid this..

  7. Though i have hit many websites for step by step recipe methods but to no avail and luckily today i landed in this website. Though im yet to try cooking this receipe, iam confident of doing this sambar easily as it has been wonderfully explained step by step visually besides in words. For the first time cook like me such elaborate detailing would be of much help in trying out the receipe.
    Thanks for such a first step by step method explanation. i humbly suggest your receipe service could be even directed at first time cooks with further depth in detailing.

  8. Tried the sambar.dont knw wer i missed out ..messed it up..Nowwww finally shocked to see pulikolambu as output..#my proportion blunder:) thank you made my day

    1. Oh I am surprised that it turned out as a pulikolambu..the tamarind proportion I have mentioned, is not too much for the Toor dal I have wonder what happened..anyway hope you had a good pulikolambu..:) try again and let me know.

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