The sambar you eat your idlis with is actually Maharashtrian



Surprise! South Indian sambar is Maharashtrian
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Interestingly, no South Indian meal is ever complete without sambar.

A smoldering plate of mellow and mellow idlis or rice cakes served on greasy banana leaves taste best when eaten with a slightly spicy and tangy sambar – a lentil stew that works equally well with dosas, curd or vadas. However, the rather modest dish we savor today was actually created by a prince in the midst of a culinary crisis.

The absence of an ingredient gave birth to a new dish

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“Use a little tamarind pulp. The locals use it often enough to gain some acidity in their dishes …”
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It was just another day at Crown Prince Sambhaji’s palace in Tanjore (now Thanjavur), Tamil Nadu, when a rumbling in his stomach indicated he needed to eat. He loved the Maharashtrian soup dish called Amti, a slightly sweet and spicy curry with pigeon pea lentils and was in the mood for home taste with a freshly made bowl for lunch. Therefore, he went to the royal dining room to find it empty… just like his stomach.

After waiting a long time, he went to the kitchen where he noticed that his chef was away for the day. Despite being the son of a famous ruler of the Indian Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the prince did not retreat from a quest, whether at war or in a kitchen. Sambhaji took it upon himself to prepare lunch that day much to the shock of the other chefs. In technical terms, years of surviving the battlefield meant he wasn’t a bad cook himself; however, no one dared to tell the royal that their dish couldn’t be made that day, due to the lack of a key sour ingredient – kokum or amsul.

However, the court jester decided to muster his courage and informed him.

A whisper in the prince’s ear could go either way – the palace would know the prince’s wrath or it would understand. Fortunately, for them, the latter worked when the jester approached the prince with a solution.

sambar-story

A steaming plate of moist, chewy idlis or rice cakes served on greasy banana leaves tastes best when eaten with a subtly spicy and tangy sambar – a lentil stew that works equally well with dosas, curd or vadas
Image Credit: Shutterstock

“Use a little tamarind pulp. The locals use it often enough to gain some acidity in their dishes, ”explained the jester.

The suggestion caught Sambhaji’s imagination. Therefore, he went on and ended up creating sambar – a dish that takes its name from the prince.

Sambar – like any other dish – has evolved over the centuries to suit all palates. And with its evolution, different labels have come. The dish specifically uses a set of ingredients like cilantro, cumin, fenugreek, curry leaves, dried red chili, split black grams, and chickpeas, which when combined form what the today we call it “sambar mix”.

Simply put, the sambar is – without a doubt – of Maharashtrian origin and South Indian property.

Sambar conquers the south

sambar-story

At one point, making sambar was laborious …
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At one point, making sambar was laborious, so much so that some ingredients had to be sun-dried, roasted and then ground into a paste. The dish was soon known as koddel (in Tulu), Kolombo (in Konkani), and huli (in kannada), with the addition of ingredients such as red and white pumpkin, okra and drumsticks. Sambar is known as pappu charu in Andhra, where the stew is slightly thicker than the usual dish. In Telangana, the concept of sambar is very popular despite being heavily influenced by Nizami cuisine, and is known as kaddu ka dalcha. However, it is made from meat, chana dal, tamarind, and a blend of spices similar to that of sambar.

sambar-story

Palaghat Iyers, who emigrated to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, brought this dish with them
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Sachin Narhar Joshi, Managing Director and Owner of Peshwa Restaurant, Al Karama, Dubai

There are different types of amti in Maharashtra – as there are different types of sambar – although the latter has been popular in the south since the 17th century …

– Sachin Narhar Joshi – owner of the Peshwa restaurant in Dubai

Growing up around the stories of Marathi ruler Shivaji, Sachin Narhar Joshi, an Indian expat in Dubai and owner of the Maharashtrian Peshwa restaurant in Dubai, knows a thing or two about the myths surrounding the sambar. “In Karnataka, people use tamarind. However, very little is known about whether kokum or amsul was primarily used in Maharashtrian cuisine and although it was a substitute for it when it was created, we have continued to use kokum itself. same. It was similar to Amti at the beginning; just the addition of veg changed everything. So for us there are different types of amti in Maharashtra – like there are different types of sambar – although the latter has been popular in the south since the 17th century.

The irony of all of this is that sambar is not even called a sambar in the state it claims to be from – Tamil Nadu. It is known as kuzhambu, which is a generic term used for sauce. And within that are several variations or “types” of kuzhambu As paruppu urundai kuzhambu, made with lentil patties and a spicy sauce; vatha kuzhambu made from black chickpeas or kala chana, Muttai Kuzhambu, made with hard-boiled eggs, and so on.

When the sambar finally made its way to the Indian state of Kerala, the addition of grated coconut elevated the dish. It was then that Palaghat Iyers, who emigrated to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, brought this dish with them. Other than that, the dish consisted of fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, red chili, asafoetida, and chickpeas, all of which have a distinct flavor profile, with or without coconut.

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Lunch was once a hot bowl of freshly cooked rice with sambar poured over the top. Pair it with a pickle, and lunch that day was extra special
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It was this same popularity of the dish, which touched the hearts of many when it was eaten. “I grew up and studied in Chennai, which today is a hub for all things food. Born into a Malayali family, I had the privilege of eating the cuisines of the two states, which – contrary to the common notion – are very different from each other. On the days when we wanted to eat a plate of medu vadas, accompanied by two donuts, we would dip it and soak it in sambar and have it with a chutney on the side.

Tobin Babu, 25

It’s more than just a dish for me, it’s a part of my childhood, a part of some of the best memories I made with my friends and it was there as comfort food on the less happy days, on rainy days, and even on days when I was in bad weather.

– Tobin Babu, 25

“There is and there will never be another to replace him. Lunch was once a hot bowl of freshly cooked rice with sambar poured over the top. Pair it with a pickle, and lunch that day was extra special. But, we always had a glass of lemon juice, which complemented the meal and gave us the perfect balance of hot and cold, spicy and sweet. I also remember the days when my mother made sambar for idli in the morning – we had it for the rest of the two meals of the day. It’s more than just a dish for me, it’s a part of my childhood, a part of some of the best memories I made with my friends and it was there as comfort food on the less happy days, on rainy days, and even on days when I was in bad weather. I haven’t yet started to perfect the preparation of the dish myself, but I know I will never have any doubts about pairing sambar with a good South Indian meal, ”said Tobin. Babu, a 25 year old expatriate who works in Dubai.

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Amti served in Maharashtra is incomparable to southern sambar and vice versa. Both are unique, but equally delicious
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For Vaishnavi Patil, a 28-year-old Indian expat working in Dubai, devouring a plate of idli with sambar resonates with her mom’s cooking. “I grew up watching my mom do it [sambar] at home. It started with the first aroma which came from adding mustard seeds, curry leaves and red peppers to heated oil – sometimes I miss that. Then she would add all those vegetables, while the dal was kept in a pressure cooker – the noise, the smell – makes me hungry just thinking about it. I’m sure eating it with idlis is the right way to eat it, but there’s nothing a good bowl can’t do.

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It’s the perfect blend of spices, and many people don’t realize that it varies from state to state and tastes great in its own way.
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Vaishnavi Patil, 28

It’s also extremely healthy and growing up, eating your veg was such a task, but when it came to sambar, all my aversion to veg disappeared at the mention.

– Vaishnavi Patil, 28

“It’s also extremely healthy and growing up, eating your vegetables was such a task, but when it came to sambar, all my aversion to vegetables disappeared at the mention. My dad, sister and I tried to do it. ourselves once when mum wasn’t around, and it was an absolute disaster. It was then that we realized that making sambar, let alone the perfect version, is no easy task. is the perfect blend of spices, and a lot of people don’t realize that it varies from state to state and tastes in its own way. I’m from Maharashtra so I can definitely say that the amti we serve is incomparable to southern sambar and vice versa. Both are unique, but equally delicious.

Now that you have an idea of ​​what sambar is, try making it at home with this recipe.

Do you have your version of sambar? Write to us at [email protected]


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