Drumsticks and brinjal sambar (arachu vitta sambar or freshly ground spices)

Sambar is very important and a traditional diet food of Tamil Nadu cuisine. From breakfast to tiffin, sambar plays a vital role. Even during lunchtime, Sambar is served with rice. There are variety of sambar recipes, among them my favorite is Arachu vitta sambar, means (in Tamil word means to grind) freshly ground spice powder, which adds more flavor and taste to the sambar. Everybody has their own way of preparing sambar as per their taste and the vegetables they add.

The most common vegetable, which I prefer or I see mostly in restaurants are Drumstick and Brinjal. This time aim sharing Drumstick and Brinjal sambar( Murungakkai ,Kathirikai ) with freshly ground spice powder apart from using ready made shop bought sambar powder(MTR , Aachi or Shakti any brand). In every sambar I love to add small onions (kunjili or shallots or sambar onion) because of its sweet taste, it goes well in any sambar you prepare. Drumstick and Brinjal sambar you can serve with any South Indian breakfast you like and also for lunch with plain rice. This sambar is spicy compared to other sambar, you can reduce chilies as per taste. My comfort food is when I pour the sambar in bowl and immerse idlies in and drizzle ghee on top, it reminds me of Ratna café in Triplicane (CHENNAI), they pour the sambar on top of the idlies as you like.

Preparation time: 10 mins (excluding soaking dal)

Cooking time: 40 mins

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Spiciness: Medium

Serves: 5 to 6


    For sambar masala (powder)

  • Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Chana dal (Bengal gram) – 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Urad dal (black gram) – 1 tsp
  • Dry chillies (long) – 4
  • Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 10
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Black pepper seeds – 1 tsp
  • Rice – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Coconut grated – 1/3 cup
  • For boiling dal

  • Toor dal (arhar dal,split pigeon peas) – 1/2 cup
  • Water – 2 1/2 cups
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • For boiling vegetables

  • Water – 3 cups
  • Drumstick – 1
  • Brinjal (round) – 3
  • Tomatoes (big) – 2
  • Sambar powder (any ready made) – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander leaves (chopped) – 1/3 cup
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Dry tamarind – medium lemon size
  • Tadka (tempering)

  • Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Hing (asafoetida) – a big pinch
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Dry chillies – 4
  • Curry leaves – 15
  • Shallots – 12 or 3/4 cup
  • Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp


  • Soak dry tamarind in 1cup hot water for 10minutes and extract its juice and keep it ready. Use tamarind water as per your taste.
  • Chop the vegetables according to the size you want and keep it aside. I have sliced the brinjal in medium size and cut drumstick into 4inch size.
  • Chop coriander leaves, 1 tomato and other tomato into slices, keep it ready.
  • Peel small onions (kunjili or sambar onion), keep it as a whole, and split the attached ones.
  • Boiling dal

  • Wash and Soak dal for 30minutes.Boil dal in a pressure cooker with turmeric powder, water, 1 tsp oil and cook it. When it is cooked, let it cool down and then smash it well with a big round spoon or dal masher and keep it aside. (Do not add salt while cooking dal).
  • Chop the vegetables according to the size you want and keep it aside.
  • Roasting and grinding for sambar masala

  • Heat a pan or tava add 1tsp oil or without oil also you can roast; you can see the difference in the pictures shown. Add all the spices and saute for few minutes until dal and other spices colour changes, turns golden brown.
  • While roasting you can smell the aroma and flavour of spices. Switch off the flame and then add grated coconut to the spices and saute, as the pan will be hot. Allow to cool and grind to a coarse powder.
  • Tadka (tempering) and cooking vegetables

  • Heat a wider vessel, add oil when hot, add mustard seeds, when it splutters, add other ingredients including shallots and suate until the shallots colour change their colour to light brown or transparent.
  • Now add other vegetables like brinjal and drumstick suate for 2 mins, then add chopped tomatoe(1) and cook for 2 mins. Suate all the vegetables in oil.
  • Now add sambar powder, turmeric powder, keep the flame low at this stage to avoid burning and roast for a min (by roasting in oil it gives good flavour to the sambar) and then add tamarind water(tamarind extract) 1cup and water 1cup immediately, cook for few minutes by closing the lid. OR Add tamarind water and plain water first then add sambar powder and turmeric powder to avoid burning of the spices.
  • When the vegetables are cooked and the rawness of tamarind has gone, add mashed dal and water 1cup again, mix well, add salt (check the seasoning) and see that you do not mash vegetables. Let it cook for 3 mins.
  • When dal and vegetables are mixed properly, add the freshly ground powder and sliced tomato (1) mix well. When it starts to boil, let it boil for 5 mins, then simmer for 10 mins, by adding coriander leaves and closing the lid. If it becomes thick you can add water again according to your consistency.
  • As soon as the freshly ground powder is added, you can feel the aroma when it is cooking. In between stir the sambar, so that it does not stick to the vessel. The consistency of sambar should not be very thick or thin.
  • Serve sambar with idli, rice or dosa and drizzle of ghee on top.


  • You can add any vegetables you like including raw mango.
  • Dry chillies I have used are medium hot, use according to taste.
  • Stir the sambar in between, so that it does not stick to the pan. Sometimes I add garlic cloves 2, and 1/2 chopped onion while boiling dal and smash it well.
  • Instead of dry tamarind, can use tamarind paste 11/2tsp (TRS concentrated one or any brand) and extra water 1cup, according to your taste.
  • While tempering you can use Idhayam sesame oil (Nella Ennai in Tamil), ghee, vegetable or sunflower oil.
  • For sweeter taste add gud (jaggery) 1tbsp or as per your taste.
  • Any Sambar when it becomes cold, it becomes thick, just reheat and then add water as per your consistency.

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