Palakkad style Sambar(with coconut)

To some of you, it might sound little weird. Never heard of Sambar with coconut right? Well, that is the way we prepare sambar in our home town. Although I might have eaten this kind of sambar, almost all my life, I hadn’t realized the fact that mom prepares sambar in a different way than others until 3 years back. All credit to my total ignorance to cooking and the ingredients that make a delicious dish 😉

One day, I saw that mom was making some masala for Sambar and it had coconut. That is when I realized that she doesn’t use store bought sambar powder. Then that day, I felt a major difference in the taste too 😀 I immediately jotted down the ingredients that go in to make the masala from her. But I didn’t try it until Onam (A festival celebrated by people of Kerala) of 2011. Ever since, when I invite someone at home and I plan to make a Kerala meal, my Palakkadan Sambar holds an undisputed place in the menu. There is a reason for it too. So far, if there is one dish of mine, that every single person who has had it, has acknowledged me to be an expert of, that would be my Sambar, hands down 🙂 So here goes the recipe for the yummy Palakkad Sambar.


Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Toor dal(yellow dal) – 1 cup
Grated coconut – heaped 1/2 cup
Shallots – 5 or 6 nos
Fenugreek seeds – 8-10 nos(little less than 1/4 tsp)
Asafoetida – 1/2 inch piece or 1/2 tsp
Tamarind – 2 inch piece
(If you are using tamarind extract – 1/2 tsp)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder – 3 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 strands
Coriander leaves – 3 strands
Dry red chilli – 2 nos
Oil – 1 tbsp
Cut mixed vegetables(Carrots, Drumstick, Okra, Brinjal, Beans, Potato, Raw banana etc are the vegetables you could use) – roughly 1.25 cups
Tomato – 1 nos
Salt – to taste (apprx. 3/4 tsp)


1. Soak toor dal in water for sometime, say 30 mins. Boil it in cooker and give 3 whistles. Keep aside for using later. Mash the cooked dal to form a thick smooth paste.
(For those who do not know how much quantity of water to use to boil the dal, use 1:1.5 ration of dal vs water)
2. Soak the tamarind in warm water. Keep aside for use later.
3. In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Keep medium heat and add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida and let it fry well. Asafoetida will become white/grey in color once it fries. If you are using asafoetida powder, it should become light brown.
4. Add coconut and shallots to the pan. Keep stirring it occasionally as you fry these. Fry till coconut becomes light brown and shallots loose its crunchiness.
5. To this add coriander powder and 1 tsp red chilli powder. Fry for few seconds till a nice aroma of the fried masala is released. Frying it for longer will burn the red chilli powder.
6. Now once this mixture cools down, grind it to a fine thick paste using water as required.
7. In a sauce pan or a steel vessel, boil 4 cups of water. Put the vegetables, remaining(1/2 tsp) of red chilli powder, turmeric powder and 1 strand of curry leaves to the boiled water and let it cook.
Note: Put vegetables that need more time to boil first(like drumstick, yam or carrot; followed by the ones that need lesser time when compared(like brinjal, okra etc)
8. Once the vegetables are half done, add sliced tomatoes and let it boil.
9. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind extract to it.
10. Once it boils well, add the boiled toor dal and mix well. Let it boil well too.
11. Now add the ground coconut masala and salt. Mix well and let it boil for sometime. You can add water to bring the gravy to the consistency you prefer.
12. Once it boils, keep aside and prepare the tempering.
13. In a pan, heat the remaining oil. Add mustard seeds, let it splutter. Then add broken red chillies and curry leaves to it. Switch off the stove and add this tempering to the sambar.
14. Garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and delicious palakkad sambar is ready.

Serve with rice or idli or dosa.


Garam Masala


Has it ever happened to you that you used to use a particular brand of something and you were so used to and accustomed to it and suddenly, one fine morning, the product is no longer available in the market. The company one day for some ‘weird’ reason stopped manufacturing it!!! Well it has happened with me more than once and not just in food varieties, in shampoos too 😦

One such case is the garam masala. My mom used to make her own garam masala for her cooking. And I knew the taste and aroma of it. I tried many brands but didn’t find anything close to what she would make. But voila! at last I found one brand which had the same exact aroma and taste of what my mom used to make. Now that brand became my default brand for almost all spice mixes and specifically garam masala. But this time when I went to get this from the store, I didn’t find it in the store. I thought may be the store doesn’t have the stock and it will be available next time I go or I could easily find it in other grocery stores. After all, there is no shortage of Indian grocery stores in the Bay Area! But alas! my hopes were shattered, when I found out after a search of about 3 months in almost all the Indian grocery store that they no longer make this product. I was so disappointed.

I tried my luck with couple of more brands but those also turned out to be major disappointments. Then one day I thought why not try making it myself. After all, I have all the required whole garam masala with me. So I tried and guess what, I am NOT going back to any stores anymore looking for a good brand of garam masala.

If you are doing what I used to do, trust me, try making the spice mixes at home. It doesn’t take much effort or time. But what you would get after 5 mins of your effort is simple amazing. You would never get the same aroma from any store bought spice mixes. And garam masala is one of the easiest to begin your experiments with making spice mixes.



Cloves – 15 nos
Cardamom – 7-8 pods
Black cardamom(optional) – 1 nos
Cinnamon stick – 3 inch
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Bay leaf – 1 nos
Fennel seeds – 3/4 tsp
Shah jeera(optional) – 1/2 tsp
Star anise – 1 nos
Coriander seeds – 3 tbsp
Black pepper – 1 tsp
Mace – 1 nos


1. Heat a pan and put all the ingredients in it. Dry fry these spices in medium flame.

2. They will crackle while frying. Once the crackling sound stops or the spices turn light brown, switch off the stove.

3. Let the spices cool down.

4. Grind these to a fine powder.