Why the Subcontinent loves sambar / lentil based vegetable stew

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  • Posted 6 years ago
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Sambar, also spelled sambhar or sambaar is a lentil based vegetable stew with just a hint of hot tamarind broth added to it, brings out the tangy flavor to the stew. The reason why the subcontinent loves sambar is due to the rich flavors of the vegetables, of course the spices and the dishes like idli, dosa, coconut rice, chapathi which make up a killer combination.

The origins of this stew took place during the early 1500’s, a big shout out to our south Indian ancestors for making such an wonderful recipe, the course of this recipe started from Tamil Nadu and traveled all across India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

The taste of sambar is so profound that there isn’t a single foodie in India who hasn’t tasted it, a bowl of sambar is a must on every South Indian platter. The wholesome dal is basically about three things– toor dal, tamarind, and unique mix spices. And of course, you can add as many veggies you want in it.

Why the subcontinent loves sambar/lentil based vegetable stew

Here are a couple of reasons why people like it and you should too.

  • The Vegetables

Vegetables make a whole new level for the dish because of the slight sweet flavor that a tomato can bring out, Fibrous content of radish, turnip, carrot, beans, knol knol and much more.

Benefiting everyone who eats sambar along with vegetables (they aren’t meant to kept aside) provides a high level of vitamin A & C , iron, proteins and calcium.

  • The Spices

Sambar places a bunch of spices from cumin seeds, curry leaves, chilli, turmeric, asafoetida,  fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, whole black peppercorns, mustard seeds, etc.

The spices bring most of the flavors to the dish that one cannot resist to dip some idli or dosa into them. Even plain rice makes a exaggerated combination.

  • The Lentils or Dal

Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings, are high in nutritional value and are available throughout the year.

The rich content of iron present in them is also a reason why people tend to have sambar combined with most of the dishes.

  • Tamarind 

Tamarind is so closely associated with India, even in its name, that it is a surprise to learn that their origin is in Africa. But it reached the subcontinent so long ago that when Arab traders found it here they called it tamar-al-hindi or dates of India. In his Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India (1563) the great botanist Garcia da Orta notes, with his usual common-sense, that this was because the fruit “have stones, and not because they are like dates.”

The tangy flavor of tamarind bring the sambar its uniqueness taste form the vegetables to the spices. this is the most sort out ingredient that every cook adds to their sambar.

These are some of the reasons why the subcontinent is in love with the dish and the combination that it could bring to all other dishes across India.


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