Arachuvitta Sambar (Fresh Masala Sambar)

Loosely, the podi pota sambar (sambar using pre-ground masala) is prepared in Thamizhnadu. In Palakkad and the rest of Kerala, the arachuvitta sambar (sambar with freshly ground masala) is more popular. There are die-hard aficionados for each of these. If fact, reams have been written on the relative merits and demerits of each. I enjoy both the varieties. In my home during childhood, the fresh masala variety was prepared more often. But these days, I tend to be consuming the one with sambar masala. Mainly because Hari reverts to this by default. Unless I specifically request the Palakkad sambar, I will have to be content with the Thamizhnadu variety.
A note on the vegetables to be used. There are several vegetables that can be used in sambar, either singly or in combination. The one with a medley of vegetables is called kadambam (meaning medley). This is mostly prepared on festive occasions or when guests are to be served. For day-to-day purposes, only a single vegetable is used. When only a single vegetable is used, then the flavour of the vegetable is imparted to the sambar. An eggplant sambar tastes quite different from a drumstick sambar. I largely prefer the single vegetable version. In the recipe presented here, I have used the small, round eggplant.

Arachuvitta Sambar

1/2 cup pigeon peas (tur dal, thuvaram parupu)
2 cups water to pressure cook
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
250 gms small round eggplants, quartered
A lemon sized ball of tamarind, juice extracted
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chilis
1 sprig curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
Salt to taste
For The Sambar Masala
4 red chilis (adjust according to taste)
1 tbsp coriander seeds (sabut dhania, kothamalli varai)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (sabut methi, venthiyam)
1 tsp Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai parupu)
1 tsp black pepper corns (sabut kali mirch, kuru milagu)
4 tbsp grated coconut
Clean the pigeon peas and add to a pressure cooker
Add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and 2 cups water
Pressure cook for about 7-8 whistles
Let the steam release naturally
Open lid and and mash well
Set aside
Preparing The Sambar Masala
Heat a wok and add 4 red chilis, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, Bengal gram and black pepper corns
Roast till aromatic
Switch off flame and cool
Transfer to a blender
Add grated coconut and a little water
Grind to a paste
Set aside
Heat a wok and add the mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the 2 red chilis and asafoetida
Roast till the chilis change colour (do not burn)
Add curry leaves and the chopped eggplant
Add tamarind paste and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Mix well
Add 1 cup water and salt
Replenish water if the gravy becomes too thick
Cook on medium flame till the eggplants are done, about 8-10 minutes
Add mashed Bengal gram and the ground masala
Mix well
Cook for about 4 minutes more till all the ingredients are well combined
Remove from flame and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve hot with steamed red/brown rice, dosa, idli…

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