Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Less Leguminous Affair

When I put up a picture of the meal I’d cooked for a friend recently, some of you asked me for the recipes. Most of them were standard and popular dishes, so I hesitated to put out yet another recipe for them but when I made one of them again a few days ago, I fell so in love with its looks that I have to extend the narcissism to my blog. I don't really like radish but the thin discs showing through the soup/stew looked nice and I had to take photographs. This is radish pappucharu, pappucharu (or pappu pulusu) being a lighter version of the sambar.

I could never get sambar right. A simple and standard dish that most can turn out in a jiffy eludes me. Any affection or unconcern that I may have had for it went out of the window once I came to sambar territory for a college education and joined the hostel.

Day in and day out, we would have sambar, with not too many different vegetables in it everyday. For six years, through three hostels in two different cities, there were very few days without sambar.

“Oh, it should be a breeze,” I thought, when I attempted to make sambar occasionally, for The Spouse, soon after I got my own kitchen. It wasn’t. Telling a friend had her coming over to teach me how to make sambar. It really did seem simple. The first few attempts were good - even I liked the sambar I made. Then I don’t know what happened - maybe I didn’t make it for a long time or whatever, I forgot her instructions and was back to square one.

I’ve decided I will no longer spend time trying to master it. Instead, I will make pappucharu which, as I discovered through a process of trial and error, is rather similar to what is made at home. I don’t know if any tiresome masalas are ground at home for this, I’m not bothered. I do know that this is what I like and this is what I’m comfortable with.

On with the recipe, then!

Toor dal/moong dal: ¾ cup (It’s more often made with toor dal rather than moong dal - I used moong for this)
Vegetables: 1.5-2 cups, chopped/sliced (Actually, go by instinct; You can use a single vegetable or a combination of a few, such as radish, bottle gourd, pumpkin white and yellow, carrot, onion***, tomato**** )
Tamarind: 3 strips, 1 inch in length, soaked in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes at least
Green chillies: 2
Red chilli powder: ½-1 tsp
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp (optional)
Salt, to taste

Oil: 1-2 tsp
Fenugreek seed: ¼ tsp
Cumin seed: ½ tsp
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Curry leaf: A sprig or two
Garlic: 3-4 cloves, crushed
Dry red chillies: 2, torn up (optional)

Squeeze the tamarind in the water well and strain the juice.

Pour the water into a pressure cooker/pan (you can even make this without a pressure cooker), add the vegetables, the green chillies, the turmeric, coriander powder and the salt. Let it cook till it whistles once.

Empty the contents into another dish and in the same pressure cooker (so as not to use too many dishes), place the dal and immerse it in enough water till it’s just about soaked, just above the level of the dal. Pre-soaking the dal helps it cook faster.

The dal should be done in about two whistles, after which you can turn down the heat and simmer it for five minutes. Once you switch off the stove, let the pressure drop naturally and open it then.

Mash the dal with a masher or the back of a ladle. Add the tamarind juice-vegetable mixture to this and boil till it becomes all bubbly. Check for seasoning.

In a small wok, heat the oil. Splutter the mustard, then the cumin and the curry leaf and garlic. Add the red chillies. Then add the fenugreek and turn off the heat. Tip this into the pappucharu and cover it. You can garnish it with fresh coriander.

Best eaten with rice, and even with idli/dosa.

***Onion: Peel off a few layers if the onions are big, but let it remain bulbous.

****Tomato: It is recommended to use a smaller amount of tamarind if you’re using tomatoes but I find that only the country tomatoes are sour, the hybrids aren’t.

Pappucharu is a thick soup, more of water and less of lentils, while sambar is a much thicker preparation. Think of pappucharu as a rather transparent variety of sambar, and you’ll probably get the right consistency.

This goes off to My Legume Love Affair, being hosted by Lucy of Nourish Me for Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.


  1. you have company..I still can't make a perfect sambar.....this sounds a nice alternative...

  2. Happy to see the post.
    Liked your version of sambhar. It looks a lot like waht we call "podi pota sambhar" i.e. sambhar with sambhar powder and no coconut.

  3. Same Pinch! Each time I make sambar it turns out in a different way..

  4. Sra,
    I only make sambhar with ready made sambhar powders , most of the time it turn out well , never tried making with home-made masala powder though ..
    quite true about Desi Tomatoes, they are sour not like the hybrids which is all we get here ...
    hugs and smiles

  5. mmm. lovely sambar. I can smell the aroma.

  6. This is sambar without sambar podi. :)

  7. its almost near to the sambhar. Try toor and moong combination. btw..nice title for this post:)

  8. That sounds like a milder version of Sambar and just as satisfying. I always favoured rasam as a kid but now love sambar a lot too :)

  9. When making sambar and rasam, tamarind plays a predominant role. So the quantity of tamar change the taste of the dish. Why each and evry time is different!
    But I like the liquid version of ur sambar :)

  10. hate radish, but love your pic.

  11. radish goes well with dal, i usually just do it in one shot in the cooker using 2 vessels.

  12. The first time I made sambar,it become trash,After many attempts and darlinghubby really is a good cook when it comes to sambar,it worked out for me now....your version is simple and it looks yummy too,I love the way you narrate it.

  13. Looks like mooli sambhar - I agree it's so easy to make. It takes me back to my student days when I used to make mooli sambhar every week :)

  14. This is SOOO similar to sambar. Maybe you can pass this off as sambar if you reduce the amount of water and use sambar powder instead of red chilli pwd:-))

  15. Rachel, yeah, it's lighter too!
    Aparna, growing up, I thought sambar had to have coconut in it - going by the hotel sambar we often had. It was quite a revelation to me that it wasn't a rule!
    Divya, really? Even my pappucharu doesn't taste the same each time.
    Jaya, here the desi tomatoes cost more than the hybrid ones but I mostly buy those only.
    Uma, it's pappucharu! LOL! Thanks.
    Vidya, And more diluted!
    Lavi, I will do that next time, thanks.
    Laavanya, I am just bored with sambar, maybe I need to come across a really different one!
    Cham, that's because I'm not a very rigid or careful cook, I guess. :) I try to 'improve' every time!
    Bee, thanks
    Richa, The Spouse makes everything at once, in the pressure cooker, got the recipe from some pressure cooker manual! It never worked for me.
    Mrs Kannan, welcome, and thanks.
    Lekhni, the problem with sambar for me is that whenever I've eaten it, the taste of the vegetable doesn't come through. Maybe I've been unlucky. Radish smells, dunno if it imparts a taste, tho' - drumstick does!

  16. I can agree that sambar I make is a hit or miss. But na, I can't stand radish in sambar, not a fan!

  17. ehmm...surprising you say you cant get smabar..I guess its in your mind..hheehe..but that bowl looks so lovely!

  18. Sra come home, I'll treat u with my sambar. I am an expert only with Sambar. If I make vendaikai/murungaikaai sambar, my family licks the bowl. Its actually lies in the sambar powder. Next time we meet I will bring a pack of that. Papuchaaru being a lighter version seems to be my favorite!

  19. What a delicious love affair!


  20. is it what you call a sister version of the rasam? have got to try it though. other than a side dish, the parathas and one marathi sabzi, have never tried pairing up the radish in any other dish.

  21. Hello Sra - Hey.. it was my mom's 60th birthday not mine :-))). Hee Hee. She wrote the post (though I posted!) Thanks a ton for your wishes.

    Sambars and dals ... veggys and dal, with or without tamarind, with or without sambar podis...each turns out differently, but all taste good. Mom's the expert ...but I just make anything..sometimes my rasam gets too thick, and at times my sambar gets to thin ...I guess I next time I make thin sambar I will tell folks I made pappucharu. The pic looks lovely. Good dal with mild seasoning, and a dash of ghee....YUMMY.

  22. no cow's dung (or is it some other dung;) in tadka? he he he...
    i hated sambar when i was staying at hostel. well, as a matter of fact i hated almost all the food cooked there. actually i prefered north Indian food to any south Indian while growing up( u know the kind which uses onion, ginger-garlic, tomato and garam masala) and my mom had gr8 difficulty in making me eat rasam or sambar. only when i started cooking i really liked its taste. err, not that i cook better than my amma but it is so simple and easy to cook ;)
    beautiful pic of those radish discs floating sra. loved this simple recipe.

  23. Jyothsna, most of my dishes taste different each time I make them!
    Valli, yeah, I'm surprised too! (weary sigh)
    Ni, I beg you, please don't bring the powder, I have a packet. Just bring the sambar :-D
    Paz, yeah, it was quite tasty!
    Priyanka, no, we don't see it that way! As far as I know, in AP, rasam (charu) is a very thin soup made from tamarind extract or tomatoes or a bit of dal diluted with lots of water.
    Dibs, I'm sorry - I got confused. When I first saw your blog, I thought it was your mom and you, then the next couple of posts that I read seemed to be Mom, and then I thought that maybe I was mistaken about two people writing.
    And yes, ghee really elevates the taste - I've tried it once, but even 1 teaspoon of it had the thing congealing in the fridge! That puts me off.
    Sia darling, that's devil's dung you're thinking of, not cow's dung! :-D No, at home and in our extended community, we don't use asafoetida, as far as I know. Just a habit/tradition. I like the taste, though, and use it sometimes.

  24. see that's what happens to my brian cells when i am trying crack some code ;) LOL... i need a break ;)

  25. now what did i say? crack or break!!!
    God, i really need to take one looooong break!!!

  26. hey me too can not make sambar that well. still trying to attain perfection. your version makes me think, I need to make some today:))

  27. Just the ticket to nurse the last vestiges of my very bad head cold.

    I made a "perfect" sambar once, my first attempt, after studying endless recipes. It *did* take 90 minutes, though. : D

  28. I too am not a sambar person... I can tolerate it with rice, and a big no-no with idlis... Anyway everyone I know have their own version of sambar.. Looking at your instructions I'd call this sambar too... and I prefer this version to the thicker ones.

  29. Hi hi that is why i use shop bought sabhar powder, and i just do what is written in the back of the box ;-) i don't think mine taste as good as my moms or sisters sambar,
    You pappu char looks delicious, i can imagine having a huge portion of rice with it yumm

  30. Sia, don't worry, we're all cracked somehow or the other, and we all need a long break, I'm sure.
    Sharmi, so did you?
    Susan, 90 minutes? Oh my! I'd probably take double that to make a simple pie, though!
    Sig, idli tasted good to me with this too, I tried it recently.
    Happy Cook, this is good as a soup, too, but it tastes v good with rice, as you imagine.

  31. boy oh boy! are we getting pompous here ;)...just did you eat the radish in the pappucharu or did you pile it on to the guest :)

  32. I love it, Sra! Gorgeous entry.

    Well, I've never had either, but I adore anything made with moong dal.

    There are just some recipes that, alas, will always ellude us...that's what our friend's cooking is for!

  33. Rajitha, pompous? Who, me? :)
    I ate the radish, I was so in love with its looks.
    Lucy, that's a nice observation, about the friends. Thanks.

  34. I'd like to invite you to have a look on a funny home-made decoration - the radish mouse on cold spread.

    Best regards from Germany