South Indian cuisine is renowned for its bold flavours, aromatic spices, and rich culinary traditions. Among its numerous mouthwatering dishes, one particular creation stands out—the iconic South Indian Sambar. This delightful blend of spices and flavours has a fascinating history and remains a favourite across the globe. Though, we are sure that all the dishes in South Indian cuisine have an interesting story behind their invention, but in this article, we will discuss about ‘Sambhar’, which is the quintessential dal made with veggies, toor dal, tamarind and a melange of spices that’s enjoyed with Idli, Dosa, Vada, Uttapam, and what not. The way it is enjoyed with South Indian dishes, one would say it is a dish created in the southern India but it has an interesting history behind the invention. Read more to find out about its interesting history. (Images courtesy: Canva)


02/4The story of Sambhar

As per the available information, the origins of Sambar is believed to be in Maharashtra. As per a legend, it is believed that Sambar was first created in the royal kitchen of Shahaji I, the son of Ekoji, who established Maratha rule in Thanjavur. The story goes that when Samba or Sambhaji, the eldest son and successor of Chhatrapati Shivaji, visited Thanjavur, and he was served a novel dish, possibly invented by a royal chef or even Shahaji himself. As a tribute to the esteemed guest, the dish came to be known as Sambar.


03/4Other tales of Sambar’s invention

Another story goes like this, that Shahji was known to be a great cook and one day he was preparing the traditional Amti dal, which is made with Kokum and has a tangy taste in it. On that fateful day, he couldn’t find kokum in the kitchen, but tamarind was there. Shahji used tamarind to cook Amti dal and he added some vegetables in it. He served this tangy curry to It Shivaji’s son Sambhaji, who was visiting him. Sambhaji loved this new development and he asked what does it have? So, Shahji named this dish after Sambhaji, and since then it is known as Sambhar.

Another story states that one day Sambhaji’s head cook took a day off and he wanted to cook the Amti dal himself. So, he experimented and cooked the dal with tamarind and replaced the moong dal with toor dal along with some veggies. When it was served, everyone loved it so much that they named the dish after him and called the dish as Sambhar.

04/4Here’s how to cook Sambhar

It is a tangy dish that not only provides flavours to the mouth, but is a digestible as well. If you also want too cook this curry yourself, here’s how you can do it at home easily.

Ingredients required
1 cup Toor dal, 2 cups assorted vegetables, 1 small onion, 2 tomatoes, 2 tbsp Sambar powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tbsp tamarind paste, Salt to taste, 2-3 cups water, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2-3 dried red chilies, A few curry leaves.

Rinse the Toor dal under running water and cook it in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water until soft and mushy. Set aside. In a separate pot, add the chopped vegetables, onions, tomatoes, Sambar powder, turmeric powder, and salt. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and bring it to a boil. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the cooked dal to the pot and mix well. In a small bowl, dissolve the tamarind paste in 1/4 cup of water and add it to the pot. Stir to combine. Let the Sambar simmer for a few minutes on low heat to allow the flavors to meld together. In a separate small pan, heat oil for tempering. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then add cumin seeds, dried red chilies, and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Pour the tempered spices into the Sambar pot and give it a good stir. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice, idli, or dosa.