Authentic Udupi sambar: Taste the flavors of south India

Sambar with idli. Photo: iStock/mukesh-kumar

Udupi sambar is a traditional South Indian dish originating from the Udupi region of Karnataka, known for its distinctive taste and preparation style. It's a flavourful and aromatic lentil-based vegetable curry that is often served as an accompaniment to rice, idli, dosa, or vada.

Udupi Sambar has a balanced flavour profile with a tangy and slightly sweet undertone from the tamarind and jaggery (optional). The spices add warmth and depth, while the vegetables contribute texture and freshness. It has a thin consistency, similar to a soup, making it perfect for drizzling over rice or soaking with idli or dosa.

1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
1 small lemon-sized tamarind (soaked in water)
2 cups mixed vegetables (such as bottle gourd, pumpkin, brinjal, drumsticks)
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
2-3 green chillies, slit
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1 sprig of curry leaves
2 tablespoons sambar powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon jaggery or sugar (optional)
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
For masala paste:
1 tablespoon grated coconut
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2-3 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker until soft and mushy
Mash it well and keep aside
Meanwhile, prepare the masala paste by dry roasting grated coconut, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chillies, fenugreek seeds, and black peppercorns until fragrant
Grind them into a smooth paste adding a little water if needed
Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes
Squeeze out the pulp and discard the solids
Keep the tamarind extract aside
In a large pot or kadhai, heat oil over medium flame
Add mustard seeds and let them splutter
Then add cumin seeds, asafoetida, and curry leaves
Stir for a few seconds
Add chopped onions and green chillies
Sauté until onions turn translucent
Now, add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they turn soft and mushy
Add the mixed vegetables along with turmeric powder and salt
Mix well and cook for a few minutes
Pour in the tamarind extract and bring it to a boil
Let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked through
Once the vegetables are tender, add the cooked and mashed toor dal to the pot
Stir well to combine
Add the sambar powder and jaggery (if using) to the sambar
Mix thoroughly and simmer for another 5-7 minutes
Finally, add the prepared masala paste to the sambar and stir well
Let it simmer for a couple of minutes
Adjust the consistency of the sambar by adding water if needed
Garnish the Udupi sambar with fresh coriander leaves
Serve hot with steamed rice, dosa, idli, or vada
Enjoy the authentic flavours of Udupi with this delicious Udupi sambar!

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