Okra and shallots sambar (arachu vitta sambar or freshly ground spices)

Sambar is of two types, one is freshly ground and other is just using sambar powder with other spices. If it is in Chennai, drumsticks, sambar onions, brinjal are used mostly in sambar. If it is in Bangalore, the sambar will be in reddish colour and jaggery is added for sweetness - same in Andhra and Kerela. The taste differs, but method and vegetables used are same.

The sambar is made of toor dal, which is boiled and added to the boiled vegetables and roasted powder. Finally tadka is done. There is no order to be followed - you can even do tadka and then boil vegetables.

You can add vegetables of your choice like brinjal and drumstick or brinjal and ladies finger or carrots or just shallots to the sambar. I have made so many varieties of sambar using sambar powder and freshly ground paste. Every sambar had a different flavour and taste. I do not follow any rule for the vegetables to be used.

In Chennai, sambar differs in each hotel. I love all sambars and it is served in breakfast with idli, dosa or vada.

If idlis are immersed in sambar, it becomes soft and absorbs the flavour and taste of sambar. Same is done with vada also.

If I am not having time, I just use readymade sambar powder (Aachi sambar powder or Shakthi sambar powder). Otherwise, I prefer freshly ground masala for sambar.

In this sambar, I have used shallots and ladies finger (okra) as vegetables. But you can add the vegetables you like.

Sambar is a south Indian dish common in India and Srilankan Tamil cuisines. Sambar is a vegetable stew made with vegetables, tamarind, toor dal and ground coconut paste and is very popular in south Indian regions like Tamil nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerela and Karnataka. Each state prepares it differently with its own variation. Arachu vitta means freshly ground masala paste for the sambar. You can prepare sambar with ready made powder also - I use Shakthi or Aacchi brand. You can use a variety of vegetables in sambar like okra, drumstick, carrot, pumpkin, radish, brinjal, tomatoes, shallots or any vegetable of your choice.

Whenever I make sambar I add ready made powder also with ground paste, but in this sambar I have not added ready made sambar powder.

You can serve more than 5 people with this recipe.

Enjoy it with idli, vada, dosa or plain rice.


    Masala paste

  • Coriander seeds – 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Chana dal (Bengal gram) – 1 tbsp or 3 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Pepper seeds – 1 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Dry chillies (long) – 6
  • Methi seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 12 to 15
  • Coconut grated – 1/4 cup or 5 tbsp
  • For boiling dal

  • Toor dal (yellow lentil) – 1/2 cup
  • Water – 2 cups
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Tomatoes (chopped) – 1
  • For boiling vegetables

  • Water – 2 cups
  • Ladies finger (cut into pieces) – 12
  • Tomato - 1
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Tamarind paste (concentrated) – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Jaggery (gud) – 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Water (again) – 1 cup
  • Tadka (seasoning)

  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Hing (asafoetida) – 1/2 tsp to 2 pinches
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Dry chillies - 4
  • Curry leaves – 15
  • Shallots – 11 to 15
  • Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp


    Boiling dal

  • Boil dal in a pressure cooker with water, roughly chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and 1 tsp oil. When it is cooked, let it cool down and then smash it well with a big round spoon and keep it aside (do not add salt while cooking dal).
  • Roasting spices

  • Roast the masala (spices), add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry chillies, and other ingredients. When all the ingredients are roasted, you can smell the heat, aroma and flavour. Stir well. After 1 min or when it changes colour, remove it and keep it aside. Add coconut in the end and switch off. Mix all. Let it roast in a hot tava. When it cools, grind all spices. You can add water if you want, but I have done it without water and left it as a little coarse powder. (No need to roast coconut over heat - it will get roasted in the hot tava)
  • Boiling vegetables and Tadka

  • Add 1 tbsp oil in a preheated vessel and add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add other ingredients including shallots and stir well until the shallots change its colour to light brown.
  • Add vegetables like ladies finger (okra), and roast all the vegetables in oil.
  • When the vegetables are half cooked, add tamarind paste. Let it boil until its rawness has gone and all the vegetables are cooked.
  • When the vegetables are cooked and the rawness of tamarind has gone, you can add smashed dal and water again. Mix well. Add salt. Do not smash the vegetables. Let it cook for about 5 mins.
  • When dal and vegetables are mixed properly, you can add the ground paste or powder. Mix well. When it comes to boil, let it boil for 5 mins. Then simmer for about 10 to 12 mins. If it becomes thick, you can add water again according to the consistency you need. Good aroma comes when everything blends together.
  • In between mix the sambar, so that it does not stick to the vessel.

  • OR
  • Boil the vegetables first with other ingredients and then add tamarind paste. Mix well. Cook until its rawness is gone.
  • Add dal and cook for a few minutes until it blends well and then add the ground powder. If it is thick, add water as per requirement (1/2 cup). Let it boil and a good aroma comes when sambar is cooking - as soon as the ground masala and other ingredients nicely blend.
  • After 10 to 15 mins, do the seasoning (tadka) in a separate pan and add to the sambar. Mix well and close the lid so that the aroma is well blended with the sambar.
  • The consistency of sambar should not be very thick or thin.
  • Serve it with idli, rice or dosa with a few drops of ghee drizzled on top.


  • Always taste and add salt accordingly.
  • You can use any vegetables as per your taste.
  • If you want to reduce the dry chillies, then reduce as per taste.
  • Stir the sambar in between so that it does not stick to the pan.
  • Sometimes I add 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 chopped onion while boiling dal and smash it well.
  • During seasoning, I sometimes add 3 cloves of crushed garlic in the oil and fry it so that more flavour comes.
  • Add tamarind paste (TRS concentrated one) according to your taste. If you are squeezing tamarind and using its water, then add water to the sambar according to the consistency you need.
  • You can add jaggery in the end when the ground masala is added to the sambar or you can avoid it.

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