Sambar (South Indian Onion Stew)
In South India, rice and sambar is a daily meal. A stew made from chana dal (yellow split peas), sambar is a spicy medium for vegetables from miniature eggplants to okra to pearl onions. South Indian sambar is bolstered by sambar powder—coriander seeds, red chile, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves, among other spices, that are coarsely ground together—as well as spices typically found in garam masala. To Indians, sambar is what makes rice taste good.
Enlarge Image Credit: Penny de los SantosSERVES 4–6
INGREDIENTS1 cup chana dal
½ tsp. ground turmeric
2 tbsp. Asian tamarind concentrate
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
½ tsp. cumin seeds
4 chiles de árbol, stemmed
2 tbsp. peanut oil
¼ tsp. black mustard seeds
4 cups pearl onions, peeled
⅛ tsp. asafoetida
20 fresh curry leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
Cooked rice, for serving
INSTRUCTIONS1. Boil dal, turmeric, and 5 cups water in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until soft, about 1 hour. Set aside. Place tamarind and 2 cups boiling water in a bowl; let sit, stirring occasionally, until paste dissolves, about 30 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard solids; set tamarind aside.
2. Heat coriander, cumin, and half the chiles in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, swirling pan, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder; cool. Process until finely ground; set aside.
3. Return saucepan to heat with oil; add remaining chiles, chopped, and mustard seeds; cook until seeds pop, about 1 minute. Add onions; cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add ground spices, asafoetida, and curry leaves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cooked dal and tamarind; boil. Season with salt; serve with rice.
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