Kerala Sambar

Food from Kerala has a strong curry leaf flavour. This dish is also quite spicy but if you don’t like your food too hot, don’t use as much chilli. This is lovely served with lemon rice and mushroom thoran.

It is meant to be quite watery and stew-like. So if your dish is getting a bit dry, add more water.

Ingredients (serves four)

300g toor dal
1tsp turmeric
2tsp black mustard seeds
2tsp fenugreek seeks
6 dried curry leaves
1tsp ground coriander
Large white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 inches fresh ginger
1tsp asafoetida
150g diced potato
75g grated coconut
3 hot green chillies (sliced down the middle)
2 large carrots (diced)
200ml tamarind water (about a lime sized chunk of tamarind soaked in water)
200g ladies fingers / okra (don’t chop up too small)
2 large ripe tomatoes (diced)
Handful coriander leaves
Salt and pepper


Boil some salted water with a teaspoon of turmeric and add the toor dal. Leave to bubble away until the dal is properly cooked through. This will take at least 30 minutes.

In a separate pan (high sided), fry the 1tsp mustard seeds, 1tsp fenugreek seeds and 3 curry leaves. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the sliced onion, garlic, asafoetida, ground coriander and ginger an fry until the onion is translucent. Transfer into a blender and blend to a paste. Set the paste aside for now.

Using the same pan, add plenty of oil and add the diced potato, sliced chilli, grated coconut and diced carrot and tamarind water. Season well. After about 10 minutes, add paste and the ladies fingers.

Once the dal is cooked through, add it to the vegetables along with the chopped up tomato and coriander leaves.

In a separate pan, fry another teaspoon of mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds, a sprinkling of red chilli flakes and the remaining curry leaves. After a couple of minutes, stir into the main dish and you are ready to serve.

Kerala Sambar

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