Sambar- Vegetable and Dal Stew

This recipe comes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, which describes this dish as thicker than ordinary dal and especially easy to digest. I wanted to make this because it called for tamarind, which gives a great tangy flavour to a dish. As with all recipes from this cook book, it makes enough to feed quite a few people (6-8) so if you’re cooking for one or two and do not want left overs until the next week, I recommend that you half this recipe.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew  

Begin by boiling salted water, then adding washed mung dal.
Bring back to a boil, remove any froth on the surface, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While the mung dal are simmering, extract the tamarind pulp.
This is a picture of the tamarind and water mixture. 

Tamarind is a tropical fruit, it is often sold as tamarind paste, which looks like a small brown square brick wrapped in plastic. To extract the pulp, you can boil the tamarind paste in just enough water to cover for 5 minutes, then press the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Or, if you’re too lazy to put on another pot, submerge the tamarind paste with just enough boiling water to cover, then microwave for 1 minute. But be careful, the tamarind paste mixture may boil over in your microwave, so watch it carefully!

Extract the pulp from the tamarind by pressing it through a sieve with
the back of a spoon. Discard the dry and stringy bits left in the sieve. 

When your dal is almost finished simmering, start another pan for the vegetables. Heat oil until hot, then add black mustard seeds and pop a lid on your pan. When the mustard seeds stop jumping around, add in ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, saute for a second more, then add in your vegetables. I’ve used some peeled green squash (looks like a large, curvy, light green zucchini), and carrots.

Saute vegetables of your choice in spices, I have some green squash and carrots.
Once the vegetables are lightly brown, add in grated coconut. 

Toast the coconut for 2 minutes, then add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture.
Be very careful, the dal may splash as you add it to the hot pan. 

Simmer the sambar until the dal is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft. Check to adjust the seasonings before serving with white rice and an Indian bread, or with masala dosa or atta dosa.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew

Sambar (Vegetable and Dal Stew)
Serves: 6


  • 6 cups (1.4 L water) 
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) mung dal, toor dal, green split-peas, or whole lentils, picked and washed thoroughly 
  • 1 1/2 lb (675g) assorted vegetables (eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, squash), cubed 
  • 2 oz (50 g) tamarind 
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil 
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 4 tbsp grated coconut (I substituted with unsweetened desiccated coconut) 
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil, add washed dal and boil uncovered using high heat for 10 minutes. Skim any froth that accumulates, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, extract the pulp from the tamarind by boiling it with enough water to cover for 5 minutes and pressing the tamarind and water mixture through a sieve to extract as much of the pulp as possible. 
  3. In a separate pan large enough to hold both the vegetables and the dal, heat up the oil, then add the mustard seeds, quickly putting a lid on the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from popping out. 
  4. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, then add the cubed vegetables and cook until the vegetables are lightly brown. 
  5. Add in the grated coconut and toast for 2 minutes. 
  6. At this point, the dal should be ready. Add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture, and simmer until the dal is fully cooked and vegetables are soft. Serve with rice and an Indian bread or dosa. 

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