Sambhar is one of those very well known south Indian preparations that has crossed all state boundaries. Idlis or dosas are never quite complete without the Sambhar.
I’m sure there are very few Indians who haven’t heard of or tasted Sambhar. For those of us to whom this is something new, a Sambhar is a “curry” made of one or more vegetables cooked in tamarind water to which cooked yellow lentils and a spicy coconut paste are added.
Vegetables (one or a combination of two or more) typically used to make sambhar are okra (ladies’ finger/ vendakkai), drumsticks (murungakkai), eggplant (katthirikkai), pumpkin (mathan), ash gourd (elavan), shallots (chinna vengayam), tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, to name some. While the rest of the method of preparation remains the same, the tatse of the Sambhar would vary with the vegetables used to make it.
I usually use a single type of vegetable to make this particular type of Sambhar, at any given time, as we prefer it this way. If you can find drumsticks, chop one up into 1 1/2″ long pieces and cook it with the okra. Drumsticks give sambhar unbelievably awesome flavour extra.
I do sometimes add tomatoes as well for added taste. If using tomatoes, add them to the sambhar right at the end, just before adding the coconut paste. Otherwise they will cook too long and turn mushy.
Sambhar is frequently prepared and served in Palakkad Iyer homes. It is usually eaten mixed with rice, along with a dry vegetable preparation on the side, as the first part of the main meal. Of course, it also accompanies idli,dosai and sometimes vadai (deep-fried savoury black gram lentil snacks)
The “Varatha” in the first word of this post title means “fried” and Araitcha” means “ground to a paste”. This refers to the spices and coconut, which are fried/ roasted in very little oil and ground to a paste that is added while making this Sambhar.
Broadly speaking, we make two types of sambhars. One is the subject of today’s post and the other one is Podi Potta Sambhar, which is made using Sambhar powder (or podi)
In some homes, the coconut for this sambhar is not fried/ roasted before grinding it to a paste with the spices. My version does.