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Chou-chou sambhar

August 28, 2012

Sambhar is sort of south Indian stew made with lentils and tamarind extracts, adding vegetables available locally.   For vegetarians like us, its the provider of essential protein as animal protein is unavailable to us.

For this dish, i have used chou-chou.

I donot know the english name of chou-chou but i am enclosing pictures.   This is a very highly nutritious dish that can be had with rice (like we do).   Goes along with dosas, idlis, parathas, naans also.

Ingredients:

Mid size chou-chou -3 or 4, shallots or baby onions a handful, 2 ripe tomatoes, tamarind (a small round ball), lentils (tuar dal – 250 gms), curry leaves and coriander for garnishing, garlic (to be added to lentils but not necessary), asafoetida powder (unique to south indian cooking – used for relieving gastric troubles related to lentils),  salt to taste, red chili-dhania powder 2 tsp, sambhar powder – 1 tsp. turmeric powder, water, oil 3 tsp.

For seasoning:  mustard seeds, cumin seeds half a tsp each with a bit of fenugreek seeds (not more than that as otherwise the sambhar will taste bitter)

(how to make red chili-dhania powder (red chili-coriander seeds powder that is)):   take a cup of red chilis.  a cup of coriander seeds.    shallow fry dry in a pan each separately or mixed.   Grind to coarse powder in a blender.  Store in a can for use upto 6 months.   alternately, this powder is available in all indian grocery/spice stores around the world.)

(how to make sambhar powder (for extra flavouring):  take 8-9 red chilis, a handful of dhania seeds or coriander seeds, a handful of channa dal (another type of lentils), a tsp of rice and a dash of fenugreek seeds.   Shallow fry everything together to golden brown without oil (dry) in a pan.  When cooled, dry grind into powder and store for usage upto 6 months)

(using this red-chili dhania powder with sambhar powder gives a special aroma to the sambhar.   making it fresh everytime is better.    can add copra (or dried coconut pieces to this dry grinding which slightly alters the taste but releases a whole new fragrance in the dish).

Method:

Rinse a handful of shallots in water and peel them, keep aside.   Grate 2 ripe tomatoes.   Peel the chou-chous on rinsing, de-seed and cube medium size.

Take 25o gm of tuar dal (one type of lentils – we use half a dozen type of lentils), rinse thoroughly, add water and turmeric powder and pressure cook until 1-2 whistles.  Mash the dal when the steam is off and keep aside.  (soaking the dal for half an hour or so before pressure cooking helps in raising the volume a little).

Take a small ball of tamarind and soak in warm water for about 30 min.   Squeeze by hand the tamarind juice.  Can take a second extract on dilution too.   Alternately ready-to-use tamarind bars are available now in shops and also tamarind juice in liquid forms.  Personally i prefer the freshest squeeze always.

Take 2-3 tsp oil in a pan and heat it.   Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds.  When they crackle (they have to so that they will release a flavour with their spluttering) , add peeled shallots (baby onions) with curry leaves.   Shallow fry for a few minutes and when the onion is golden brown, add grated tomatoes.   Stir fry again and add the cubed chou-chou finally.   Turn over for a couple of minutes before adding the tamarind extract to the vegetables.   Add water for dilution, a second and even a third extract of tamarind if you so desire.   (too much tamarind is not good as tamarind is tangy in taste).   Bring everything to a boil.  Add the sambhar powder, the red chili-dhania powder, salt to the same.   Add more water if required.

Simmer on low flame (chou-chou takes longer to cook) may be for 20 min or so.   When the vegetables are cooked, pour the content into the pressure cooker with mashed tuar dal (lentils) and mix well.    Add a sprinkling of asafoetida powder.   Asafoetida is actually a bark of a tree powdered for easy use.   Without this addition, sambhar is nothing.   The famed aroma of sambhar is exactly due to this most important ingredient in sambhar cooking – asafoetida.     Mix well and bring everything to a boil once again either in the pan or in the open pressure cooker (no need to pressure cook again).

Turn off after a few minutes, after garnishing with freshly washed coriander.   This is chou-chou sambhar.  Sambhar can be made with a variety of vegetables including drumsticks (not chicken but a vegetable), snake gaurds, pumpkins, radish, okra etc – with more than 1 vegetable as well.   In the place of shallots (baby onions), regular onions 1-2 can be used but shallots give sambhar an extra flavour like none other.

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