Sambar (Bitter Gourd & Ground Spices)

Sambar (Bitter Gourd & Ground Spices)

There is the simple Sambar (pronounced Saambaar) which has become such a popular dish all over India. Besides being a tasty, aromatic sauce/stew with vegetables, it is wonderfully healthy. Believe me, the “bitter gourd” loses almost all the bitterness when the process is completed.

But this Sambar here is a sort of exotic, gourmet Sambar, if you will. You use unusual vegetables and freshly grounded spices. However, the finished product is amazing. For one who relishes the Food and Spices of India, this will be a lovely variation of the traditional, plain Sambar.This dish will taste great with a lot of main dishes.


Sambar with Fresh Spices...exotic

Sambar with Fresh Spices…exotic

Hover over the highlighted Keywords below for Images and/or Description of some of the Ingredients:
Asafoetida (Hing), Bitter Guord, Cayenne Pepper, Channa Dahl, Coconut, Coriander, Curry Leaves, Mustard Seeds, Red Chillies, ~Rice, ~Tamarind, Toor Dahl, Turmeric

Sambar (Bitter Gourd & Ground Spices)

Serves 4 - 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Dietary Diabetic, Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Indian Gravy, Side Dish
Misc Freezable, Gourmet, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Region Indian


  • 1 cup Toor Dahl
  • 3 - 4 Tender Bittler Gourd (Vegetable available in Indian and Chinese Grocery Stores)
  • 4 tablespoons Cooking Oil (Olive, Avocado, Canola, Sesame or other Oil)
  • 2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Channa Dahl
  • 2 - 4 Whole, Dried Red Chillies (2 if large chillies, 3 to 4 if small chillies, depending upon how hot you want it)
  • 2 teaspoons Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Asafoetida
  • 2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
  • 3 pieces Fresh Coconut (each about 2x2 inch piece)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoon Tamarind Paste
  • 2 - 3 teaspoons Salt
  • 6 - 10 leaves Curry Leaves (Available in Indian Grocery Stores)


Step 1
Cook the toor dahl. (See Recipes under 'Indian Basic' Category).
Step 2

Slice each bitter gourd lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice them into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place the bitter gourd pieces in a saucepan. Add water so that it is about 2 inches above the vegetable. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Boil until the vegetable is well-cooked but firm. Do not overcook. Drain the vegetable in a colander. Set aside.

Step 3

Place a small frying pan on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil.

Step 4

When oil is hot, add whole red chilies, coriander seeds, channa dahl and 1 tsp mustard seeds. Fry until channa dahl is golden brown. Do not fry too much. Add the coconut pieces and stir fry for a minute more. Set aside and let it cool.

Step 5

Place the fried spices in a blender/grinder. Add half a cup of water. Grind until it turns into a smooth paste. (Add a tablespoon of water at a time, if necessary). Transfer the ground paste into a bowl. If the paste is too sticky in the blender, you can add a little water and pour it out into the bowl.

Step 6

Place a large sauce pan on medium heat. Add 3 tbsp oil. When oil is heated add mustard seeds. When they crackle rapidly, add the drained bitter gourd pieces into the sauce pan.

Step 7

Mash the cooked toor dahl well. If necessary, use a hand held mixer and pulse once or twice until the toor dahl is mashed. Add the mashed toor dahl to the saucepan. Mix well.

Step 8

Add the blended spice paste into the sauce pan. Stir the ingredients gently without breaking the veggie pieces. Let it simmer for 2 more minutes. Taste a little. Add more salt or tamarind, if you like, according to your taste.

Step 9

Serve Serve hot on a bed of Rice or with Idlis, Dosas and Vadas.

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