Friday, March 11, 2011

Traditional Varutharacha Sambhar

We celebrate life and death together in our calenders.
We celebrate two birthdays: one English  and the other Malayalam. Cakes on the English  and a traditional feast on the other. Sometimes both days fall on the same day: new arrivals, a 28th day ceremony, perhaps a wedding or a naming ceremony. Youthful enthusiasm pushing back the funerals and anniversaries of people who left us: the observance left to the elders. Joy over the years tempered with loss.

This particular version of sambhar  served here, is from our nook in Kerala, and a uses a roasted, ground paste of coconut and spices: Varutharacha Sambhar. This goes to AWED-Indian Cuisine hosted by Ayeesha.
Rose-matta Rice, Pumpkin Erisseri,  Varutharacha Sambhar, Carrot-onion-green chillies yogurt salad, Kondattams: Long beans, Bittergourds and fried curd chillies. A simple Tapioca Pearl-Milk and Cardamom payasam.

This is the traditional version served at my grandparents. Many variations of this Varutharacha Sambhar exist. This is a simple, spare, version. Cummin, aniseed/ fennel seeds, garlic and such are all avoided. Onions are not roasted and ground with the paste. They are also avoided by some.
The version here is more soupy and thick, while the childhood dish was of a thinner version and the fresh flavour of coriander permeated the dish. Various vegetables readily available from the garden like pumpkin, winter melon/ash gourd, potatoes in large half- moon chunks were added. I have added potatoes and carrots.  Sambhar onions were boiled with the dal and infused this version with that special taste.
For the roasted and ground paste:
1-2 tbsps of coconut oil or ghee
1/8 tsp of fenugreek seeds
2-3 tsps of whole coriander seeds
2-3 dried red chillies
2 large pinches of asafoetida

1 walnut sized ball or about 1 heaped tbsp of black tamarind, soaked in 1/2 cup of warm water

1/2 Cup of Tuvar Dal/ Split Pigeon Peas
1 small potato cut into large chunks
1 small carrot, in chunks
2-3 small red shallots/sambhar onions
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp Coconut oil or clarified butter/ghee
2 dried red chillies
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
Pinch of Asafoetida
1 stem of curry leaves
Cook the tuvar dal with salt, turmeric powder and the vegetables until done.

Meanwhile  heat 1 tbsp or more of coconut oil /ghee
Add the fenugreek seeds, the red chillies and the grated coconut
Roast until golden-a fairly reddish-brown tint.
Add coriander seeds towards  the end and roast on low for about 5 minutes
Add asafoetida and take off the heat
Grind into a smooth paste with water

Add this ground paste to the cooked dal and vegetables
Season with salt 
Simmer for a few minutes
Squeeze the tamarind pulp and add that to the dal
Add wter according to the consistency you desire
This is a thicker version of the traditional thinner gravy.
[Reduce the amount of tuvar dal by half if you want a lighter version]

Cook for a minimum of 5 minutes after adding the tamarind pulp.
Simmer for another few minutes

Heat 1 tbsp of ghee to smoking point
Temper with mustard seeds, dried red chillies, pinch of asafoetida and curry leaves.
Pour over the sambhar and cover with a lid. Let sit for a while before serving.


  1. looks simply delicious and fabulous..

  2. Looks so delicious and tempting.. lovely platter.. thanks for sharing !!

    Indian Cuisine

  3. wow, that look delish dear, love the ground paste in it.

  4. Varutharacha samabar looks delicious, it is one of traditional dish i love.

  5. love this sambar a lot...
    looks perfect dear.....

  6. Thats a super delicious sambhar, truly inviting, btw regarding ur q'n about rose syrup kheer, since i never used gulkand honestly i dunno how to reply u, may be u should give a try..sorry dear..

  7. Lovely pictures .The sambar sounds great.
    This rosematta rice i like in my multigrain khichdi and lentil soups but i have not been able to like it plain boiled form...any suggestions.

    I bought a lot of it from Chennai...will definitely try the rice with this sambar n tell you.

  8. Freshly ground spices definitely add lots of flavour, looks fabulous. Thank you for sending it to AWED :)


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