Tirunelveli Sambhar – Nellai Sambhar

Tirunelveli Sambhar

For the last day of this week’s blogging marathon, I decided to make a specialty from Tirunelveli district, Nellai Sambhar. The minute I hear the name Tirunelveli, the first thing that comes to my mind is halwa. Tirunelveli is very famous for its halwa and no other halwa can even come close to it. When I came across this dish in the internet, I was wondering what can be so different about a sambhar. It turns out that this sambhar is indeed very unique in its flavor and something that I have never tasted before.

My first experience in the Nellai cuisine is when I made Maapillai Sodhi and puli inji. The sodhi was an entirely new dish to me that I had never heard before and fell in love with as soon I tasted it. This time when exploring for a different recipe from the region, I knew what to expect flavor wise and the dish kept up to the expectation. I referred to few recipes, online and offline for reference to make this dish.

Preparation time – 10 minutes
Cooking time – 40 minutes
Difficulty level – easy


Tirunelveli Sambhar

Ingredients to make Tirunelveli Sambhar – Serves 4-6

  • Tamarind – Lemon sized ball
  • Tuvaram paruppu / Toor dal – ½ cup
  • Onion – 1 medium (chopped)
  • Tomato (optional) – 1 (I did not use it)
  • Any vegetable of your choice – 1 ½ cups (chopped, I used okra)
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Asafetida – a pinch
  • Salt – to taste

To Temper –

  • Oil – 2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Urad dal/Ullutham paruppu – 2 tsp
  • Methi seeds / Fenugreek – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – few

Grind into paste –

  • Onion – ½ of small one
  • Red chilies – 4 or 5
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Coconut – ¼ cup

Procedure to make Tirunelveli Sambhar –

  • Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for few minutes and extract the pulp. Again add ½ cup of water to the tamarind and extract the remaining water. Keep aside.
  • Wash the toor dal well and add enough water and turmeric powder. Cook it in a pressure cooker until soft and mushy. Keep aside.
Tirunelveli Sambhar
  • Grind the ingredients mentioned under grind to paste. Do not fry any of the ingredients. They are ground raw. Keep it aside.
Tirunelveli Sambhar
  • In a pot, heat the oil and add the ingredients mentioned under ‘to temper’ list. Let it fry for a minute and then add the onions. Fry the onions until translucent and then add the vegetable of your choice. Fry it for 2-3 minutes and then add the extracted tamarind water and salt needed.
  • Let the mixture boil for 10-12 minutes, until the raw smell from the tamarind disappears and the vegetable cooks.
    Tirunelveli Sambhar
  • Now add the ground paste and the cooked toor dal and mix well. Adjust the consistency of the sambhar and let it come to a boil. Simmer it for about- 10-12 minutes until aromatic.
Tirunelveli Sambhar
  • Serve hot with rice!
Tirunelveli Sambhar


Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#47

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