Most Kerala-iyer and Tamil-iyer homes prepare this sambhar as a weekend special. Since Brahmins don’t usually eat much onions, Any dish prepared with onions becomes a special item. The small onions are known for their strong flavor and taste. They are known as Chinna Vengayam or Madras Vengayam and in English they are known as shallots.(Refer to the picture of shallots on your right).
The sambhar tastes even better when it gets leftover and eaten the next day. As the essence of the onions enter the sambhar and it tastes heavenly. This sambhar tastes good when eaten with Potato podimas.
(Refer to my blog for the recipe of potato podimas)
Small Onions (Chinna Vengayam/
Tamarind - lemon size
Toor dal - 3/4 cup
Sambhar powder - 2 tbsps
Salt as per taste
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Udad dal – ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – a sprig
Finely chopped Coriander leaves for garnish
Freshly grated coconut – 3-4 tbsps
Soak tamarind in one cup of water. Peel the small onions and wash them well. Keep aside. Pressure cook, the Toor dal until soft. Mash well. Keep aside.
In a pan, take 1 tbsp oil, when hot, add the peeled, washed and drained onion and fry it well till it is transparent. Now add salt, Sambhar powder and curry leaves and fry for 1-2 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind well and strain out the juice and add to the fried onions. Add 2- 3 cups of water and let it simmer till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears. Then add the mashed toor dal, Simmer till thick, check for spices, add some more if required and mix.
In a pan, heat one tablespoon of oil, add mustard seeds, when they begin to crackle, add the udad dal and fenugreek seeds and when the dals turns slightly pinkish, Add the freshly grated coconut. Roast the coconut until it is pink and you get the fine aroma of roasted coconut, Add this to your sambhar and finally garnish with Coriander leaves.
Serve hot with rice, ghee and potato podimas. Enjoy the sambhar
Note: Don’t add asafetida to this recipe as you will loose the aroma of the onions, this was told to me by one grand-aunt who was an expert in cooking.