Tamarind Sambar

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
tamarind sambar

Sambars are thick, spicy and fiery vegetable curries and are usually served as the first course of a traditional south Indian meal, but they also make a lovely light lunch or dinner on their own served with rice and pappadoms. This version, which I have adapted from my treasured copy of Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, is easy to prepare and combines the goodness of some split dals and a generous amount of spice, complete with tart and tangy tamarind pulp to give the sambar a unique and delicious hot and sour flavor. If you like Indian hot, this is just the dish for you, followed by a rasam, and served also with a side salad and poriyal. Do serve with some plain yogurt on the side to temper the heat if desired.

Dakshin is certainly a cookbook worth having if you enjoy drool-worthy photos and valuable information and recipes from and about south India. When I first started cooking Indian cuisine, I mostly made dishes originating from northern India. But I wanted to explore native dishes from other regions and this book was certainly a pivotal turning point in my approach to Indian vegetarian cooking. I continue to explore dishes from throughout the subcontinent, dabble with fusion-style dishes, and hope my creations will inspire my readers to get into the kitchen and spice it up.

Tamarind and the other ingredients listed in this recipe are easily available at any Indian and most Asian grocers.

Tamarind SambarTamarind Sambar
Recipe by
Adapted from Dakshin
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 24, 2012

Thick, hot and sour south Indian tamarind sambar curry

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

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  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 3 dried whole red chilies, broken into pieces
  • 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon toor dal, well rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon chana dal, or yellow split peas, well rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal, well rinsed
  • generous handful of dried curry leaves
  • 4 to 5 shallots, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons sambar powder
  • 1 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar
  • 1 generous teaspoon tamarind pulp
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and stir and fry until they turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Next add the dried and fresh chilies, asafetida, fenugreek seeds and cayenne, and stir and fry for a minute. Now add the dals and curry leaves to the pan and continue to stir for a few minutes or until the dals turn a golden color.

  • Next add the shallots and sauté for a few minutes. Toss in the sambar powder and jaggery or brown sugar and stir for a minute. Now add the tamarind pulp, water and salt, and cover the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. While the mixture is simmering, whisk together the chickpea flour and 1/2 cup of water. Add to the pan and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and serve hot or warm alongside a plate of hot fresh cooked white rice.

Makes 4 servings

South Indian Tamarind Sambar

More Indian recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Bitter Melon (Bitter Gourd) Sambar
Black-Eyed Pea Sambar
Chana Saag (Chickpea and Spinach Curry)
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese


Anh said...

simple and hearty! I am cooking something similar soon! Thanks for the inspiration!

Unknown said...

This blog is truly awesome in all aspects.

Chitra said...

Very nice. wil try sometime..

Mango Ginger said...

Tamarind is one of my all time favourite ingredients. This is a gorgeous recipe, nice work!