Sambar rice was the fixed Sunday lunch menu for us in Bangalore. This spicy and sour south Indian cousin of dal is made with lentils, vegetables, spices, and tamarind pulp. The taste of sambhar varies from state to state or for that matter family to family. For me and my family, my aunt makes the best sambar in the world. So much so that, every time we visit her or any get together at her place, we make her cook sambar rice always. This has been going on for years now. This recipe is my version of sambar.

Pigeon peas and tamarind paste are the base for sambar and rest of the ingredients vary from family to family. My siblings and I are very picky with vegetables and this particular recipe is my invention of staying away from the vegetables my mom puts in the sambar. She adds okra, carrot, beans, bottle gourd, and even kachri which we all kids religiously fish out and make a mountain of it in the plate 🙂 By the way, I too add carrots and beans to sambar occasionally.

I prefer this simple and no frills sambar for my Sunday lunch or with Idli, dosa or vada. In Bangalore, or I can say whole south India, people eat sambar with almost any savoury snack be it Pongal, Upma, etc. The guys here at Ananda Bhavan and Komalas in Singapore serve sambar even with Biryani.

I prefer sambar with hot rice and crunchy mini poppadums. It makes my Sunday lunch extra special and I get to sleep again after over eating the heavy sambar rice meal.



  • ½ cup yellow pigeon peas (toor/arhar dal)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 inch piece of ginger grated
  • 8-10 curry leaves (kadipatta)
  • 1 green chilli slit
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida (heeng)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp sambhar powder (I prefer 777 madras sambhar powder)
  • ½ cup tamarind water*
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste


  • ¼ cup boiled/steamed mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, drumsticks)


Wash and soak the dal in water for 15-20 minutes. Drain the water. Add dal, 1 ½ cup water, and little salt in a pressure cooker and cook for 3-4 whistles or till the dal is completely cooked. Mash the dal using a blender or whisk and keep aside.

Heat oil in a kadai or thick bottomed deep pan. Add mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the grated ginger and sauté. Add the curry leaf, green chilli, dry red chilli, and asafoetida. Cook for 20-30 seconds. Add chopped onions and cook for 1-2 minutes or till the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes or till the tomatoes are mashed when you press lightly with the back of a spoon. Add the steamed vegetables at this stage if you are adding vegetables to the sambhar. Add red chilli powder, turmeric, and sambhar powder. Mix well and cook for 4-5 minutes mixing in between. If the paste is too dry, add 1-2 table spoon of water. Add water and tamarind water and bring to boil. Add the mashed dal and sugar. Let the sambhar cook on slow flame for 3-5 minutes. Add chopped coriander and serve with hot rice.

*Be careful with the amount of tamarind water you add. The amount depends on the sourness of the tamarind you use. If you are using the store bought tamarind paste, it is a good idea to dilute it and add half of the tamarind water first and then add more as per taste.

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