Thursday, April 2, 2009

Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!

It often happens that you find a song so catchy that the tune just settles in your head refusing to budge. I’m presently latched on to one. This song is not only catchy, but extremely cute.
Why am I talking music in a food blog? Well, because the song in the spotlight is actually a recipe. Imagine that.
I bought my son the Karadi Rhymes CD this January- and yeah, we’re so in love with it, the both of us: 2 ½ year old Samit, and __ year old me!
This CD (it is a must-buy!) has songs rendered by the adorable and spunky Usha Uthup and covers various contextual ‘Indian’ situations: trains, kites, monkeys, temples, monsoons, onion sambar and more.
Yeah, Onion Sambar!

The rhyme goes something like this:

Peel the Onion, Dice them small
Soak tamarind in water that’s warm
Cook some dal and mash it soft
Add some salt and turmeric strong…………..

Coconut and red chillies
Roast and grind them ever so fine
Add the paste to the dal to simmer…..

Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!
Ready for dinner, ready for dinner………

(I didn’t take help from the CD at all; told you I’ve been humming this!)

So while we hum this day and night, it got me thinking about the perfect onion sambar recipe.
Bubbling hot, thick, and bursting with the fragrance of onions, this sambar makes a riotous combination with rice, idlis, or even better, with ragi mudde.
And the best onions are the small ones. These little warriors so endorse the old saying, ‘good things come in small packages’. They are pungent, sharp in flavor and a perfect fit for South Indian cuisine. My mother-in-law chops them fine, fries them in coconut oil with mustard, garlic and bay leaves, and uses them as tadka (or seasoning) in most of her curries. It is a dash of super flavor!

Ok, here’s a version pulled out from my mom’s kitchen!


1 cup toor dal
200 gm small onions peeled
1tsp turmeric
Water for boiling the dal
A small ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
Salt to taste
Two pinches of asafetida
½ teaspoon jaggery
A spring of curry leaves
Mustard for seasoning
Ghee for seasoning

Roast and grind into a paste:
2 tbps fresh coconut (grated)
½ teaspoon jeera
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
4 red chillies


Pressure-cook the dal. Steam the onions till they are soft (don’t pressure cook, as they will simply disintegrate into the dal. Add the turmeric, salt, jaggery, and tamarind into the dal and simmer on open medium heat. Add the coconut paste and continue to simmer for another 6 minutes. By this time the sambar would bubble on the surface and give out a lovely aroma.
In a separate pan, heat the ghee (clarified butter) till it melts, add the mustard seeds and when it splutters, add the asafetida and the curry leaves. Turn off the heat.

Transfer the dal into the serving bowl and pour the ghee seasoning over it. Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!

Gorge on it. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Shruti SriHarsha said...

Ghosh, reading the post I was imagining hot cup of onion sambar in front of me....Am in need of good food:(
Hows you Anu!!!
I loved the sambar poem;)
Hugs to samith!!