Sambar Powder | Madras Curry Powder Recipe:
The first thing that comes to my mind while getting ready for a vacation is to clear out my fridge. Absolutely not because I keep my fridge clean all the time, I like mine messy. I just don’t want my fridge to be moldy when I return from a vacation. Yes, moldy! I will get to that shortly.
Last year when my husband and I got sick of our rat race jobs, we decided to go on a long vacation. Well, the word “long” is an understatement here. My husband and I hadn’t seen his niece since the day she was born, because she was thousands of miles away from us. My adorable little niece-in-law was growing up too fast. Setting all our dilemmas aside, we finally decided to visit her and make that the vacation. We ended up staying there for 45 days. So yeah, pretty longggg vacation!
Coming back to the fridge, before leaving for that long vacation, I had removed all the perishable items from the fridge. All those left inside were sauces and jam bottles. We left the fridge on. But when I returned, I got a heart ache when I opened the fridge. It was full of molds and fungi. Not just on the sauces or jam bottles, but just everywhere and anywhere. It was one hell of a sight. You couldn’t possibly imagine it.
We had inquired about this to the apartment managers. Apparently there was a major power dip one day and people had to turn the power on manually, in every house. Since then, I make sure to remove all items from fridge before any vacation. I also make sure to shut down the fridge and leave the door open. Trust me cleaning an moldy fridge is not an easy feat. Ugh!
I came back from my recent vacation and I had no masalas. I might have accidentally cleared out the pantry. Mmm not sure. Masalas are important in many Indian Kitchens. I’ve seen many buy ready-made powders but my mother made them at home because she didn’t like the taste of store bought powders. Since I am a fan of making food from scratch, I started making my own Sambar powder as soon as I started cooking.
I don’t trust the store-bought powders. I’m pretty sure they add additives like coloring agents, flavor enhancers and preservatives. Anyway, I got this recipe from my mom. I make small batches at home. My mother used to make it in bulk by getting it processed in a mill. The Sambar powder milled at home has a coarser texture than the powder processed at mill. There isn’t any difference in the flavor.
I prefer making the Sambar powder at home, it has all the flavors intact and doesn’t have to stay good for more than few months. It will be over in a month anyway. In fact, the small batch method works for people who don’t make South Indian gravies everyday. You can use this Curry powder to make different types of south Indian gravies like Sambar, Puli Kuzhambu,etc.. I even use this powder to make Mushroom Fry or Soya Chunks Salad.
Method for making Sambar Powder:
Making Sambar Powder involves just two steps: Roast and Grind. First step is dry roasting the spices to bring out the flavor required and to remove any moisture left in them. The crucial step is roasting the spices. If the spices are not well roasted, the powder will not have the intended aroma and taste. The powder will also have a coarser texture. If the spices are over roasted or burnt, well that will also change the flavor. So being patient while roasting will pay off. To avoid any mix ups of cooking time of the spices, it is better to roast them separately, one by one.
Heat a flat bottomed pan. When the pan is hot enough, turn the heat down to medium and add fenugreek seeds, these take very little time to get roasted. Also, it gets burnt easily. Which is why, we are adding them now when the pan is just hot. With the help of a wooden spoon, keep moving the seeds around for even heating. When the seeds turn golden brown and when you get a nice aroma from them, remove from heat. Spread it on a tray to cool.
Next up is dry chilli. I have used a mix of Normal Red Chillies and Byadgi Chillies only because I like the color the Byadgi chilli adds to the powder. Byadgi chilli are less hot than the normal ones. They have beautiful wrinkled surface. This when added to food gives a nice red color, more color than the normal chilli, less color than Kashmiri chilli. Add both the chillies to the pan and keep stirring them. Wait for the aroma. Make sure to have the exhaust system on, sometimes this aroma might be too spicy to inhale. Remove them from heat ,when the chillies emit a nice chilli aroma and when chillies begin to blacken. Spread them on a tray to cool.
Now, add the bengal gram and urad dal. These take more time to get roasted. Wait till they have a dark golden brown color on them. To check, bite one bengal gram/urad dal, it should be crisp and be easily broken in two. Sauté them just until dark golden brown, be careful not to burn them. Add them to the tray to cool.
After that, add coriander seeds to the pan. It takes less time. Funny things happens with these little seeds. They dance around in a very hot pan. They tumble and jump! I used to be amazed at this when I was little. You can tell it is done when they all start dancing or the usual tell tale which is the aroma. Probably it takes somewhere between 20 to 40 seconds.
Lastly, add the cumin seeds and the pepper corns. The cumin seeds usually pop on a hot pan. Remove them as soon as it starts popping. As for pepper corns, the time take for the cumin seeds to pop is enough for them too.
Spread them all on a tray and let it cool down completely. Once the spices have cooled down, transfer them from the tray to a food processor or a mixer grinder. Add the asafoetida powder. Pulse them for few seconds before grinding them on high speed.
That’s it. Store them in an air tight jar. It will stay good for 3 months, however the flavor diminishes as it ages. It yields about 200 grams. 1 tsp or 10 grams should be enough to make a Sambar for two. You can make a really tasty restaurant style sambar with this Sambar Powder.
- Serves: Approx. 200g
- Serving size: 10 g
- Calories: 14
- Fat: 1
- Carbohydrates: 3
- Sugar: 0
- Sodium: 2
- Protein: 1
- Coriander Seeds - 50 g
- Dry Chilli (Normal ones without any wrinkles) - 20
- Byadgi Dry Chilli (Wrinkled chilli) - 15
- Split Chickpeas or Bengal Gram - 1 Tsp
- Black Lentil or Urad Dal - 1 Tsp
- Fenugreek seeds - 1 Tbsp
- Black Pepper - 2 Tbsp
- Cumin Seeds - 2 Tbsp
- Asafoetida Powder - ½ Tsp
- First, dry roast all the ingredients, except Asafoetida Powder, separately.
- Let it cool down and come to room temperature.
- Add them all to a food processor or a mixer grinder.
- Finally, blend to make a powder.