The steaming, mouthwatering bowl of Sambhar is basically a lentil based vegetable stew. If you imagine this dish was created by a cheery faced Tam Bram lady clad in Kanjeevaram silk Saree with flowers in her hair, think you’re wrong! Surprisingly, this dish was first invented by a Maratha king.
There are a few tales about the origin of the better half of the idli-Wada-Dosa trio of food. One story goes that the 17th century Maratha ruler, Shahuji, experimented with a dish called Amti. Adept at cooking as he was with warfare, he decided to try tamarind pulp instead of kokum and pigeon peas in place of Mung bean. The dish turned out to be delicious and was relished by the guest of the day, Sambhaji, the second emperor of the Maratha empire, The court then named the dish after Sambhaji. Another legend talks about the Maratha ruler Shivaji’s son, Sambhaji, who decided to do a little cooking when his chef was away. He readied a Dal with a touch of tamarind and enjoyed his own preparation so much the dish was named after him.
Some sources say the Sambhar took birth in Karanataka. We say, it does not matter… at the end of the day, a Sambhar, wherever the origin, tastes just as wonderful.
Served with rice as a meal or with snacks like Idli, Dosa and Vada, the Sambhar assumes several avatars, depending on the region. In Tamil Nadu, it is cooked with dry Sambhar powder whereas in Karnataka, a wet paste is used. The Sambhar in Kerala gets a great new twist by adding soft grated coconut. The Andhra Sambhar, rest assured, is a spicy affair altogether.
Other delightful innovations include the buttermilk Sambhar, where the Sambhar curry is cooked with the buttermilk. Then there is the tongue tickling Kozhambu, [which again has several variations], a concoction that uses Sambhar powder and tamarind, as well as the Bisi Bele Baath, a rice and sambhar based dish, laden with an array of fresh vegetables and a dash of ground coconut, is a staple dish of Many Kannadigas.
Love Sambar too? Tell us where you’ve had the best one!