Tiffin Sambar

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Sambar is a lentil stew with lots of vegetables, cooked in tamarind juice and spiced with samabr powder. It is a common preparation in South Indian homes. I was always under the impression that the lentils used in sambar is toor dal or a mixture of toor and moong dal. I was surprised when I saw Sharmi’s tiffin sambar which is prepared with moong dal. On further Google search, most of the tiffin sambar recipes I came across called for moong dal. I make nimmakaya pappu chaaru or pappu khut with moong dal without any vegetables or tamarind in it. Since moong dal is light on the stomach and easy to digest, I wanted to give it try.

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I paired it with ven pongal. Most of the tiffin recipes I came across called for potatoes and I was unsure if I would like it in sambar. I skipped the potatoes and used carrots, radish & tomatoes. This sambar is suppose to be on the milder side and not tangy at all. From what I have read, tamarind can even be omitted.

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Total Time: 30 – 35 minutes
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes
Serves: 3 – 5


  • ¼ cup Moong Dal
  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Oil
  • ¼ tsp, Cumin Seeds
  • ¼ Mustard Seeds
  • ⅛ – ¼ tsp. Hing ~ Asafoetida
  • 4 Pearl Onion (I used frozen and cut each into half as the onions were big)
  • 2 Green Chilies
  • 6-8 Curry Leaves
  • 1 medium sized Carrot, peeled & sliced
  • 3 Red Radish, cut into 2-3 slices
  • 1 medium sized Tomato, cut into cubes
  • ⅛ – ¼ tsp. Turmeric Powder
  • 1 ¾ – 2 tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
  • ½ – 1 tsp. Tamarind Paste (I used homemade paste)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Sambar Powder

  • 2 tsp. Chana Dal
  • 1 ½ tsp. Coriander Seeds
  • ¼ – ½ tsp. Fenugreek Seeds ~ Methi Seeds
  • 2 – 4 Dry Red Chilies (I used 4 and it was spicy)


  • Cook Dal – Dry roast moong dal until light brown and let cool.
  • Wash and cook dal in pressure cooker with ½ – ¾ cup water until soft and mushy. In pressure cooker it takes 5 whistles on high and couple of minutes on low. I like really mushy, hence cook it little longer than actually required.
  • Sambar Powder – Dry roast spices listed under sambar powder. Cool and make a powder.
  • Sambar – In pan heat oil, add cumin, mustard seeds and let the seeds splutter.
  • Add onion, green chilies, curry leaves, vegetables, salt, turmeric, asafoetida and saute for couple of minutes until tomatoes are soft.
  • Add spice powder and stir.
  • Add dal, water, tamarind paste and bring to a boil. I forgot to note down water quantity, I think I used approximately 1 – 1 ½ cups water.
  • Boil sambar for about 5-7 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.
  • Serve hot with ven pongal or idli.


  • I did not use jaggery and later, after tasting the sambar I felt something was missing. I added ¼ tsp. sugar and that balanced the flavors.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 56

9 thoughts on “Tiffin Sambar

  1. I am not sure whether it is the Tamil Nadu thing and I too was surprised to notice the moong dal version in Tamil blogs. I don’t think I have come across a similar samabhar in other states.

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