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August 28, 2018

Arachu Vitta Sambar - (freshly ground coconut masala)

Sambar - through this Sambar with Idli or dosa and the ash smeared on forhead, this is how rest of India recognise South India.

The southern states are unique with it's cuisine and culture. Sambar definitely will not smell and taste the same in every home. Not even in it's home town Thanjavur. The ingredients and their quantity varies. Some add jaggery (only a little to get a tinge of sweet and some don't). Some use mix vegetables. Some use only one vegetable.... thus the sambar avatar goes on....

History of Sambar :-

Sambar originated in the Maratha's kitchen in Thanjavur says the historians based on the scripts available at Thanjavur Saraswathi Mahal Library.

Thanjavur was ruled by Chozhas, Pandiyas, Vijayanagar dynasty and then by Naikars. The Naikar killed the King of Thanjavur and captured it. The Son of the King, approached the Sultan of Bijapur for help to regain the Kingdom. Sultan of Bijapur, sent his force, which was commanded by "Venkoji" - a Maratha. Venkoji captured Thanjavur but he proclaimed himself as the king. History says, Venkoji is half brother of Chatrapati Shivaji. Marathi's make a dish called "Amti" which is a mix of Lentil and Kokum (a native souring agent, tastes sour like tamarind). In Thanjavur when kokum went out of stock, it was replaced by tamarind and in went various vegetables along with tuvar dal. There are various versions of sambar story. One story says that it was made by a cook in the Maratha's Fort when the store ran out of kokum hence the cook managed it with tamarind. Another version says that it was Shambaji (Chatrapati's Son) who made it when the royal chef was away. Yet another version says that this was served to Shambaji, he liked it very much, thus named after him. Whatever the story may be, this prepration has won millions of hearts around the world.


There are two types of Sambar

1. Prepared with Sambar Powder
2. Prepared with freshly ground coconut masala

Sharing the "Arachu Vitta" version (i.e.) Freshly ground coconut masala based.

Vegetables that are used (you use any one or a mix of vegetables) :- Ashgourd, Pumpkin, Drum stick, Onion, Shallots, Tomato, Carrot, Beetroot, Ladies Finger, greens (yes greens!) etc..

Onion sambar itself is a separate variety. Which I will share in the coming posts....

Sambar Making video is here :-

Ingredients :-

  1. Tamarind - 1 lemon size
  2. Ashgourd cubes - 1 cup
  3. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
  4. Salt to taste
  5. Jaggery (grated) 1 spoon
  6. Asafoetida powder - 1/4 tsp
  7. Curry Leaves - 1 sprig (for garnishing)
  8. Tuvar dal - 1/4 cup

For masala :-

  1. Channa dal - 1 tsp
  2. Dried Red Chillies - 2-3 nos.
  3. Coriander seeds - 1 spoon
  4. Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
  5. Curry leaves - 7 nos.
  6. Grated coconut - 3 spoons
For tempering :-

  1. Oil - 1 tbsp
  2. Mustard Seeds - 1/4 tsp

Procedure :-

  • Cook Tamarind and Extract 3 cups of tamarind water.
  • In a vessel add the tamarind water, vegetable cubes, turmeric powder, salt, asafoetida, jaggery and bring to boil
  • Roast the items 1 to 5 and along with coconut grind it to a paste.
  • Cook Tuvar Dal, mash it lightly and keep it ready.
  • When the vegetable is cooked, add the dal to it. 
  • When it starts boiling, add the ground masala and let it cook till foam forms on top.
  • Now make the tempering and add it to the prepared sambar.
  • Put some curry leaves and leave it closed for sometime, so that the curry leaves flavour will get infused into the sambar nicely.
  • Aromatic Arachu Vitta Sambar is Ready!

August 14, 2018

Puttuku man sumandha kadhai

This is one of the divine play known as "Thiruvilayadal" by God Shiva with his devotees, where the God himself came in digsuise and carried sand to stop the flood in the River Vaigai.

In Madurai, one day God Shiva made it rain heavily and the banks of the River Vaigai was flooding. 

Image courtesy :  google search

So the people rushed to the Pandya King for help. The king said we need to raise the height of the bank. One person from each household should come forward so that we can do this quickly.

Image courtesy :  google search

There lived an old lady named "Vandhi" and she made & sold Puttu (Steamed rice cakes) for her living. Delicious were the Puttu made by her.

Always she kept a portion of the Puttu as an offering to Lord Shiva before she starts her sale. Hearing the king's order, she was upset as she was weak and old to help them. She prayed to God Shiva and lamented that she is of no help to her country.

God was moved by these words from her sincere heart and he came down to help her in the disguise of a young boy. The God who was invisibly accepting her Puttu offering is now making his presence to taste her delicious Puttu!

He offered his help to her on a condition that she has to feed him unlimited puttu till his heart's content. Condition was agreed by Vandi Paati and she served him hot delicious puttu before he left for work.

When we over eat, we tend to feel sleepy. There is a saying in Tamizh "Unda Mayakam Thondanukum Undu".  So the god in disguise after his tummy was full, lied down and slept.  Seeing him not working, the people complained to the supervisor, thus this reached the King's ears. 

The King rushed to the place and saw the lad Sleeping. Angry king, took a cane and beat the sleeping lad. The pain was felt by everyone present there including the King. This unusual experience made them realise that it is not a man but a God.

This divine play is still remembered and celebrated in Madurai. In the month of "Aavani" (Shravan /  (Chinga masam in malayalam) on the day of Moolam Star, this event is celebrated in Shiva Temple in Madurai as an event. Puttu is distributed as Prashad to all the devotees.

Those who want to try this recipe will find it here

These were the stories told to children and I was lucky that I was from that generation that I could here a lot of such historical divine plays and more.

Shambo Mahadeva!

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