Arachuvitta Vengaya Sambar | Spicy Lentil & Tamarind Soup | Foodomania

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Arachuvitta Vengaya Sambar | Spicy Lentil & Tamarind Soup

Aug 21, 2012         8 comments.

For some reason, I get a lot of traffic to this page from Google for the keywords “How to say I like sambar in tamil”. πŸ˜€ I wonder why! But since I don’t want you – the searcher to return empty handed, this is how you say it in Tamil – Yenakku Saambaar Pudikkum“. πŸ˜€

Rest of the world would call this soup and relish it by itself. But not in India! πŸ™‚ The famous Sambar (read: saam-baar) is a spicy lentil and tamarind soup that is eaten with rice or as a side to a number of South Indian snacks. It is very healthy as it has a lot of lentils! Two ingredients form the base of this dish – tamarind and pigeon peas (tuvar/toor dal) The rest of the warming spices really are a personal choice. There are a hundred ways of making this quintessential Tamil dish. And people make it to suit their taste. I wouldn’t say it is easy for a beginner. At least not the version that I’m about to share with you. It involves so many ingredients that I wouldn’t judge you for running away! πŸ™‚ However, by doing so, you miss the opportunity of making & tasting THE BEST Sambar in the world (in my opinion!)What is this arachu thingy you’ve written in the title you ask? πŸ˜€ You see, this week on AGC, the theme was ‘Tamil Food’. And nothing says ‘Tamil’ like a bowl of Sambar. However, I didn’t know how to make the good sambar mom usually makes. So I got her to teach me once and I nailed the flavors in the next attempt. πŸ™‚ Arachuvitta Vengaya Sambar is nothing but Onion Sambar with some ground wet spices. ‘Arachuvitta’ is a Tamil word that loosely translates to ‘ground’ (the past tense of grind ground :D) and Vengayam means onions. But really, what we use is the small onion or popularly known as Shallots.
This recipe may look like there’s a lot of work to do. But really, if you are organized, it takes less than half an hour. But if you’re tempted to try this (and you should, it is delicious!) allot at least 1 hour to it! πŸ˜€ First time wont be easy. There’s so many different things going on at the same time that you might forget to do something. This is how we like it. You may wanna adjust flavors to suit your taste. I’ve posted how to make tamarind water, which forms the base for this recipe here. While we like our sides less sour, if you find that you need more sourness, add more tamarind next time. πŸ™‚

(Print this recipe)

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Serves: 6-8 people


For the wet paste…
4 dry red chilli
3 TBsp coriander seeds
1 TBsp chana dal (chickpea)
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (around 100 grams)
4-5 Shallots (for the flavor, optional)

For the base…
4 cups Tamarind Water (click here for detailed recipe)
1 cup pigeon peas (Tuvar / Toor Dal)

The vegetables…
1 cup Shallots (around 25-30)
1 cup finely chopped Tomatoes
1 cup chopped pumpkin, capsicum, carrot (optional. If you’re using, chop big chunks)

For the flavor…
1 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)
2 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
A tiny block of asafoetida / hing (if you don’t have this, use 1/2 tsp of the powder)
2 TBsp Sambar powder (available in Indian stores. Or make at home) – (optional, for additional flavor)
4-5 TBsp Curry leaves
2-3 TBsp Salt, to taste
Vegetable Oil, as required

Intimidated?? πŸ˜› Don’t be…


Step I. Cook the Lentil: Pigeon Pea
1. I used the pressure cooker to 4 whistles. You could do it in the microwave or open pan too (by adding enough water & let it boil for 20 min)

2. Mash the lentils slightly

Step II. Getting the base ready
1. To 4 cups of tamarind water, add the veggies (except shallots) salt and sambar powder.

If you’re tamarind water is too thick, add only half of it & dilute by adding water.

Step III. Fry the Shallots
1. Heat 2 tsp oil and add the shallots.

2. Fry until they are tender.

3. Reserve 4-5 for grinding to a paste. Add the rest into the tamarind water

Step IV. Tempering for the Sambar
1. Heat 1 tsp oil and add the chunks of asafoetida / hing. Let it fry. (If you don’t have this, use the powder or you cans kip it too)

2. Once the aroma comes from asafoetida (about 15 secs) add the methi (fenugreek) and mustard seeds. Once the seeds start popping add the curry leaves and switch of the flame.

3. Add the whole thing to the Tamarind water base.

Step V. Start heating the Sambar
1. While we make the wet paste, place the vessel with the tamarind water mixture on the stove and let it start boiling. It will take some time for the smell of ‘dry spices’ to go and the Sambar to give a ‘cooked smell’.

Step VI. Wet Paste
1. Heat 1 tsp oil and add red chillies. Also add the coriander seeds and chickpea seeds and fry until the seeds start to change color. (around 1-2 min)

2. Assemble all the ingredients needed to blend including fresh coconut and some of the reserved shallots.

3. Add to a blender and grind to a smooth paste. No need to add water.

Step VII. Adding paste & lentil to the Sambar
1. Let the sambar boil for at least 15 min. It should have reduced by half. Add 1 cup water and again let it boil.

2. Add the wet ground paste and mix well.

3. Finally, add the mashed lentils and mix well

Step VII. Finishing off
1. Let the mixture boil for a further 5-6 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt, sourness, spice etc.

2. Switch off and garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves

3. Serve!

How to eat Sambar?
There are so many ways one could eat this comfort dish! Eat it as a side dish for Rotis, Dosa, Idli.. really any south Indian snack variety! But my personal favorite is to havethis with a bowl of hot rice!
Hot Rice ~ add sambar
Mix it up

1. This is just one way of making sambar. The variations are many. I’ll save them for another post
2. Instead of tamarind water, you could mix 3 tsp of tamarind pulp / paste with 2 cups of water for the base.
3. If you don’t find shallots, use regular onions
4. I usually don’t add many other veggies when I use shallots as I don’t want a confusion of flavors. I add other veggies when I don’t use onions/shallots. But it really is upto you to decide.

8 Comments on “Arachuvitta Vengaya Sambar | Spicy Lentil & Tamarind Soup

  1. I have always been fascinated by dosa and sambar…I evenn had one when I was in UK but it was ok. My companion told me that it was not cooked up to the mark. Since then I ve been looking for good recipes of Dosa and sambar. Your recipe looks nice. Thank you for sharing it

  2. A friend was just telling me about this soup today! We were discussing tamarind, because it is also used in Latin America, though primarily as a drink or frozen treat. Can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing at the Culture Swapper!

  3. Very nice !! I love this sambar n I was searching for the recipe…Thanks a lot..n very nicely explained.will try it at home.

  4. Yummmm…. I usually just use sambar powder to make sambar. some rare day I make like this. My MIL always makes like this.. i can literally smell the sambar from here…. you have described it soooo well kavi.. Kudos!

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