Sambar powder is a flavorful and aromatic spice blend used in South Indian cuisine, particularly in the preparation of sambar, a popular lentil-based vegetable stew. Sambar is a staple dish in South India and is often served with rice, idli (steamed rice cakes), dosa (fermented crepes), or vada (fried lentil fritters).
The composition of sambar powder can vary slightly from region to region and from household to household, but it generally includes a combination of roasted and ground spices such as:
- Red Chilies: Dried red chilies provide the main source of heat and spiciness in the powder.
- Coriander Seeds: These seeds add a warm and slightly citrusy flavor to the blend.
- Cumin Seeds: Cumin contributes a nutty and earthy note.
- Black Peppercorns: Peppercorns provide heat and a bit of pungency.
- Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea Lentils): These lentils are often roasted and ground along with the spices, lending a distinct flavor to the sambar powder.
- Fenugreek Seeds: Fenugreek adds a slight bitterness and complexity to the mix.
- Mustard Seeds: These seeds can add a hint of spiciness and pungency.
- Curry Leaves: Dried curry leaves contribute a unique aroma and flavor.
These spices are typically roasted to enhance their flavors and then ground into a fine powder. The resulting sambar powder is used as a key ingredient in making sambar. To prepare sambar, the powder is usually combined with cooked lentils, a variety of vegetables, tamarind pulp (for sourness), and other seasonings. The sambar powder imparts a rich and aromatic depth to the dish, making it an integral part of South Indian cuisine.
While pre-made sambar powder is widely available in stores, many households in South India prefer to make their own sambar powder to achieve a fresher and more customized flavor profile.