Sambar - Split Peas with Vegetables

Earlier, this Indian Sambar (Yellow Split Peas with Vegetables) was far from perfect. As it is my favorite Indian gravy-based wholesome vegetarian dish, I recently refined and improved it with the some key tips from my friend's mother. This time, nearer perfection.

Hello Mr. Gordon Ramsay (watch him* !!!), what's with vegetarian dishes? I totally adore it! Truth is: there is a little part of me with you when I need seafood/meat.

Sambar (Split Peas with Vegetables)
(1) The road to perfection starts with a cup of yellow split peas. Soak an hour before cooking. Boil them with 2 cloves of garlic to cook in a pot with about 500-800 ml of water. It takes about 20 minutes for the peas to turn soft.

(2) A lot of onions required (Note: Preferably pearl onions if possible as they are sweeter when cooked for prolonged time). About 2 cups of chopped onions should be sufficient. If using pearl onions, you can leave them whole, and peeled - about 15-20 pearl onions.
Once the peas turn soft, add the onions, then cumin seed, ground coriander and 2 large tomatoes.

(3) How can spices be forgotten? Proportion-wise, you will need more cumin seeds - about 3/4tbsp and ground coriander - about 1tsp. Other spices include fennel, black pepper, turmeric, chili powder (typically makes up sambar powder)

(4) Let the mixture simmer for about 15-20 mins, then add vegetables. My favorites are winter melon, chayotea, fuzzy (hairy) melon (毛瓜), radish/daikon. This time, I did not have winter melon. I had eggplant and okra instead. If you have store-bought sambar powder (Note1: you can use Indian-type fish curry powder as substitute - I use Baba's brand), add about 1tbsp of sambar powder.

(5) Let the mixture with vegetables simmer for 20 minutes till the vegetables are cooked and flavors have combined.

(6) In a separate pan, heat up some oil and aromatize the curry leaves, dried red chili and more cumin seeds, then add them to the cooked sambar. This last step makes the sambar extra fragrant. If you have done this step first, the curry leaves would have lost most of the aroma towards the end when the sambar is cooked.

Flavor-wise, this time was definitely better than the first. I will definitely make this again and maybe omit the okra and eggplant the next time. Although these were added last while the sambar was cooking, I found they tend to turn mushy towards the end of cooking.

Sharing this soup-based dish with Souper Sunday, and Hearth and Soul.

*Gordon Ramsay's Great Escapes (BBC America).

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