Sambar soup is originally from south India. Its a vegan soup with a spicy hot kick that clears sinuses. An essential ingredient is sambar powder which is a spice blend that includes red hot chilis. Lentils provide a thick broth and other vegetables are added according to availability and taste. My title is in quotes because I make no claim to making an authentic Indian soup. I like Indian food and the soup I made tastes similar to what I’ve had at Indian restaurants.
I bought several of the ingredients at an ethnic grocery near the corner of Shallowford and Lee Highway. The store is next to an Indian restaurant called the Dosa Hut and across from BiLo. I’ll list the ingredients after describing how I put it together.
I started by boiling split lentils until soft – about an hour. As they started cooking I soaked tamarind paste in water. When they had cooked about a half hour, I stirred in the tamarind paste and added garam masala and sambar powder. Also during the lentil cooking, I chopped onions, celery, mushrooms, garlic, and okra. Also, I thawed and removed skins from some cherry tomatoes that I had frozen in the summer. When the lentils were nearly finished, I heated some oil (peanut which is non GMO) and added turmeric and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds started popping, I added the onions and celery and stir fried a few minutes. Next I added mushrooms and garlic and continued to stir fry.
When the stir fry was finished, I added it to the soup pot along with the okra and cherry tomatoes. The okra and tomatoes were both frozen, so they didn’t need cooking to soften them. I added salt to taste and simmered for about 15 minutes. Total cooking time was about 90 minutes. Split lentils are probably the fastest cooking dried bean.
Ingredients – 1 cup split lentils, 3 cups water (add more as needed), 2 cups chopped vegetables, 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, 1.5 tablespoons sambar powder, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, salt
Despite its origins in tropical South India, Sambar can warm a winter day. Its good with rice or an Indian flatbread.