Autumn,  India,  Recipes,  Vegetarian

Vegetable Sambar and Tamarind

The diet of most Indians is heavily influenced by religion, especially Hinduism. Hinduism teaches non-violence, all living beings should be valued equally. This is why a Lacto-vegetarian diet is encouraged and meat, poultry, fish and eggs are not recommended. However, Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products.

A healthy Lacto-vegetarian diet includes cereals, tamarind, lentils (dal), dairy products, vegetables, fruits and coconut oil. Spices such as turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, ginger and cumin dominate traditional dishes and add rich flavour.

A plant-based diet is associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, such as breast and colon cancer. In addition, the Indian diet was particularly associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ideally, sambar is a vegetable stew prepared by cooking lentils (dal)with all the vegetables. Additionally, spices such as coriander seeds and tamarind are added to give the dish a rich flavour. It is served hot and is often used as an accompaniment to most South Indian and Sri Lankan foods.

The food uses of tamarind are many. Fragile, unripe very sour pods. In temples in Buddhist Asian countries, tamarind is used to polish brass statues and lamps and copper, brass and bronze utensils. Tamarind contains tartaric acid, which can remove blemishes. (1)

Here is a simple recipe that you can try at home.

You will need:

dal (lentils)
sambar masala
olive oil (ghee)
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
Chilli pepper
desiccated coconut
mustard seeds
curry leaves
vegetables (green beans, aubergine)
tamarind paste


Put the dal and sambar masala into a deep pot and wash under cold water until the water runs clear, then cover with four times the amount of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for around 30 mins or until soft.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the Chilli pepper, cumin and coriander. Stir-fry for a minute or until the coriander seeds turn golden, then add the desiccated coconut.

Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and shallots. Add the green beans and aubergine and stir-fry on high for 5 minutes. Now add tomatoes, little water, salt, sugar and tamarind paste. Cover with a lid and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

When the tomatoes are soft and the dal is cooked, add the vegetables and heat together for another 5 minutes. Taste and edit salt, sugar and tamarind to taste. Serve with jasmine rice, Idli and Vadas.

Properties of dal from the viewpoint of Chinese medicine can be found here(Dal – lentils)








Red lentils(dal) help to regulate water and tonify qi. Tropism – kidney, heart, stomach, spleen. Effects: clears damp, resolves water accumulations
Tamarind(Suan Jiao) cool, sour, sweet. Tropism – stomach, heart. Effects: herbs that clear heat and purge hire and/or clear summer heat.

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