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South Indian My Plate

Most people when they think of Indian food, they refer to North Indian cuisine, usually consisting of Nan bread, paratha, roti and subji (veggies or meat dishes with masala). If at all anyone has heard of South Indian cuisine, it’s associated with Dosa or idli (steamed rice cakes made from fermented batter) with side dish of coconut chutney and Sambhar. While those are considered typically South Indian food, there is so much more in South Indian cuisine that does not reach the restaurants. The Sambhar I made today contains lentils (toor dal) and daikon. It is seasoned with mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds (bitter) and asafoetida (hing) which helps regulate Vata or the wind energy. South Indian food mainly comes from 4 states in India, namely TamilNadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala (the home of Ayurveda - God’s own country as its is called).

A simple way to choose a healthy meal is to use the My Plate method. This My plate (shown in the picture) has half the plate filled with veggies, okra stir fried in olive oil with seasonings mustard and urad dal (a kind of lentil). Added spices include, sambhar powder, my own homemade recipe, consisting of specific proportions of coriander seeds, toor dal, urad dal, red chillies, cumin seeds and black pepper, ground raw with turmeric powder. Many different proportions are made by different people, but mine has a higher concentration of coriander seeds, which is a cooling spice. The tamarind paste added to the sambhar has a quality to increase digestion as it is sour. Taken by itself, it is a perfect combination of salt, sour, sweet, astringent, bitter and pungent. So it can technically be eaten like a soup, or added to rice or quinoa as I did. It is also a side dish for dosa, idli, peserettu, Adai (lentil crepes), upma etc. So this one dish can serve several purposes.

Sambhar recipe:

4 cups of water

1 tsp tamarind

1/2 daikon sliced

1/2 cup dried yellow lentils (toor dal) cooked

2 tsp Olive oil for seasoning

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

A pinch of Asafoetida (Hing)

A few curry leaves

Salt to taste (about 1 1/2 tsp)

1 tsp Turmeric powder

2 tsp sambhar powder (homemade or store bought)

Boil the daikon in water for a few minutes until it is at least half cooked. Then add the tamarind paste, salt, turmeric powder, sambhar powder. Once it blends and boils for 5-10 mins until raw smell is gone, add the cooked toor dal into the pot. Add curry leaves. Continue to boil until well blended maybe 5 mins or so. If the mixture is watery you can mix a tbsp of rice flour with water to make a paste and add it to the sambhar while boiling. That serves as a thickener.


1.Any veggies can be added instead of daikon.

2. Moong dal can be used instead of toor dal if you have digestive issues. Toor dal can cause a little bloating if you don’t have optimal digestion.

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