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Chai Time with Friends: Spicy Sambar

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Recipe by Preeti Mistry
Sambar is a South Indian lentil soup made from toor dal. These small yellowish round lentils cook fairly quickly and thus this soup is a good choice when pressed for time. There are many different veggies that folks put in sambar, I liked adding okra because something about this soup reminds me of a Creole gumbo. It is also a very spicy and tart soup so the butternut squash is a great sweet element to balance the flavors. 

Chai Time with Friends: Spicy Sambar

Time: about 2 hours
Yield: 3 quarts


 2 cups toor dal
1/4 cup neutral oil
1 dried red chile de Arbol
1 tsp Spicewalla Brown Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Spicewalla Fenugreek Seeds
10 each curry leaves 
1/2 yellow onion, julienned
2 Tbs Spicewalla x Preeti Mistry Sambar Masala 
1/2 tsp Spicewalla Turmeric
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 cups okra, cut into half moons
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp neutral oil
2 cups butternut squash, 1 inch dice
2 cups dark greens (such as chard, amaranth, beet greens, etc)


  1. Rinse the dal under cold water and drain four times. Soak rinsed dal in warm water to cover for about 30 minutes. Transfer dal and water to stockpot, and add water to fully cover dal by at least 2 inches of water. Season with 2 pinches of salt. Place stockpot on high heat and bring to a boil. When water comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until dal is soft and beginning to dissolve.
  2. Remove cooked dal from heat and puree with immersion blender or let cool slightly and puree in traditional blender in batches. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Toss okra with salt and oil. Spread out on baking sheet and roast in oven for about 10 minutes to soften okra. Let cool on baking sheet about 15 minutes. 
  4. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil on high heat. Blanch butternut squash for 7-10 minutes until just cooked through and easily pierced with a pairing knife. Drain and set aside.
  5. Heat a large stockpot on high heat with the oil and whole spices. When spices begin to brown, about 1 minute, add curry leaves, onion and season with a pinch of salt. After about 3 minutes when onions start to soften add Sambar Masala and turmeric. Season with two pinches of salt. Stir to incorporate spices, about 3 minutes.
  6. Pour in pureed dal and stir to combine, add 1 cup of water and tamarind paste. Increase heat to high, and add okra, squash and greens. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer for at least 20 minutes. Check squash for doneness. Taste and season with more salt if needed. 
Chai Time fenugreek mustard seed Preeti Mistry sambar sambar masala Turmeric

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