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.
My Legume Love Affair Pappucharu Sambar Memories