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Sambhar powder is a spice blend used throughout India, especially the southern states as a flavorant while preparing sambhar( a lentil preparation). Sambhar is a vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind and toovar dal, and is very popular in the cooking of southern regions of India especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil nadu. It is eaten with rice or with dosa and idlis or even alone, as a soup. Each state in the South prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment. The availability of ready to use sambhar powder makes sambhar preparation easier and faster. Some common ingredients in sambhar powder are toor dal, red chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorn dry curry leaves. The powder can be bought from a store or prepared at home. Roast each of the above spices till they turn aromatic. Powder to a fine powder using a coffee grinder and use as required. This special blend of spice is used in a small quantity at the end of cooking to add a subtle flavour to the cooked lentils. Available in customised qualities as well as packing, the sambhar powder helps to recreate the flavours of whole spices without taking the trouble to roast and ground them individually.
How to select
While commercial sambhar powder preparations can be bought ready ground, as with all ground spice, they do not keep well and soon lose their aroma. Whole spices, which keep fresh much longer, can be ground when needed using a mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. Typical ingredients of the sambar powder include toor dal, roasted lentils, coriander seeds, dried whole red chili, fenugreek seeds, coriander leaves and curry leaves. Regional variations may include versions with mustard seeds, cumin, black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, or other spices. Sambhar powder as a ready made masala is available in a wide variety of brands like MTR, Everest, etc. While buying packaged sambhar powder, check the expiry date and feel for lumpiness( sign of moisture inside the packet.
" Sambhar powder is used to prepare a South Indian delicacy called sambhar. Toovar dal is cooked until they are crumbled. Tamarind is soaked in water to extract its flavour and then the pulp is discarded. Vegetables, tamarind water, turmeric, salt , asafoetida (a pinch) and a mixture of ground spices known as sambhar powder are initially boiled together. After the vegetables and tamarind water are slightly cooked, The dal and ground coconut mixture are added and allowed to cook until the vegetables are done. A wide variety of vegetables may be added to sambar. Typical vegetables include okra, carrot, radish, pumpkin, potatoes, tomatoes, brinjal and whole or halved shallots or onions, but many different vegetables may be used with adequate results.
" The cooked sambar is typically eaten with a garnish, which is an oil-fried spice mixture containing items such mustard seeds, urad dal, dried red chillies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and asafoetida.
" The sambhar powder can also be added to curries, vegetable dishes, soups, or stews toward the end of cooking to impart a typical south Indian flavor to the dish.
" Sambar is usually served with steamed rice. Sambar with rice is one of the main courses of both formal and everyday south Indian cuisine. In Tamil Nadu, vada sambar and idli sambar are popular for breakfast or lunch.
How to store
While commercial sambhar powder preparations can be bought ready ground, as with all ground spice, they do not keep well and soon lose their aroma. Store the powder in an airtight container and keep it in a cool dark place.
" Since the sambhar powder is added only in small quantities, it does not have substantial health benefits. However the use of peppercorns, cumin and coriander are known to improve digestive complaints and immune functions.