Radish and Shallots Sambar

Recipe for Radish and Shallots Sambar

Sambar is the most popular south Indian dish. It is basically a stew in which Toor Dal (pigeon peas) are combined with vegetables and cooked in a tamarind base. A special spice called Sambar Powder is added, which gives Sambar its characteristic taste. It is eaten with steamed rice.

Sambar powder is a combination of many spices ( like red chillies, coriander seeds. black Pepper, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, rice and pigeon peas). These spices are individually roasted and ground, and then mixed. Sambar powder has been traditionally made in homes, with each home’s recipe passed down through generations. However, these days many big brands sell Sambar Powder, which is available prepackaged in India’s supermarkets. Due to the lack of time and the ease and convenience it offers, people prefer buying them instead of making them at home. Each brand has a slightly different taste, and people buy the one closest to their preferred taste. 

Each of the south Indian states has its recipe for Sambar, and different recipes are followed based on whether Sambar is made for breakfast ( to be eaten in Dosa, Idly, Vada, etc.) or lunch/dinner ( to be eaten with rice). 

Recently on a visit to a Turkish supermarket near my home, I was lucky to find fresh radishes and shallots ( commonly called Sambar Onions in India). These ingredients inspired me to make sambar. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients needed for Radish and Shallots Sambar:

  1. Tur dal (Pigeon Peas): 1 cup
  2. Turmeric Powder: 1 teaspoon
  3. Sambar Powder: 1 tablespoon
  4. Salt: to taste
  5. Oil: 2 tablespoons for cooking the veggies and optionally one teaspoon for tadka
  6. Mustard Seeds/Cumin seeds: 1 teaspoon
  7. Asafoetida: 1/2 teaspoon
  8. Curry leaves: 8-10
  9. Green Chilies: 3-4
  10. Dry red chillies: 3-4
  11. Shallots: 7-8
  12. Tomato: 1 big, roughly chopped
  13. Tamarind Juice: 1 cup ( extracted from about one tablespoon of tamarind pulp)
  14. Powdered Jaggery: 1 teaspoon
  15. Radish: Peeled and sliced
  16. Water: Enough to soak the lentils, cook the lentils, and then later add extra to get the right consistency
  17. Fresh Coriander leaves: For garnishing 

Method to make Radish and Shallots Sambar:

  1. Wash and then soak the pigeon peas in water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Add the soaked pigeon peas, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, roughly chopped tomato, and 3 cups of water in a pressure cooker and cook till the pigeon peas are soft and mushy. 

    pigeon peas being cookedcooked pigeon peas
  3. While the pigeon peas are cooking, take a pan and heat the oil. Add mustard seeds/cumin seeds( whatever is your preference) and asafoetida.

    frying cumin seeds
  4. Once the seeds crackle, add green chillies and red chillies.

    tadka for sambar
  5. Then add curry leaves, onions and radish slices.

    Radish and Shallots SambarRadish and Shallots Sambar
  6. Add salt, cover and let the radish get fully cooked.

    Radish and Shallots Sambar
  7. Now, add this mixture to the cooked Dal. Continue cooking on medium heat.

    Radish and Shallots Sambar
  8. In a small bowl, mix sambar powder in 1/2 a cup of water. Add this solution to the sambar.

    Radish and Shallots Sambar
  9. Add tamarind juice.

    Radish and Shallots Sambar
  10. Add jaggery. Boil for another 3-4 minutes.

    Radish and Shallots Sambar
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.


I served sambar with steamed rice and stir-fried beans.

Radish and Shallots Sambar

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