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Tiffin Sambar ~ South Indian Lentil and Tamarind Stew

A deliciously spicy and tangy South Indian Lentil and Tamarind Stew with Vegetables that is Vegan and Gluten Free – Tiffin Sambar, is an easier version of the regular sambar with an ever so slight difference in taste that pairs very well with South Indian breakfast items like Dosa, Idli and Pongal, commonly referred to as Tiffin items and hence the name Tiffin Sambar!
Course Vegetarian
Cuisine South Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Manju


  • ½ cup yellow moong dal
  • Key lime sized ball of tamarind
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 yellow potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 roma tomato diced
  • ½ red onion chopped
  • 8 –10 pearl onions peeled
  • 3-4 Thai green chillies or 2 serrano chillies slit in half lengthwise
  • 1 ½ tbsp sambar powder
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ cup cilantro minced
  • To temper:
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp asafetida
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 3-4 pearl onions peeled and chopped


  • Rinse the moon dal under running water a few times, until the water is no longer cloudy. Soak the tamarind ball in ½ cup warm water and squeeze the pulp out of it. Strain it to a bowl and repeat with two or three more times with ½ cup water each time (water can be room temperature).
  • Add the moong dal, tamarind pulp, 2 cups water, potatoes, onions, pearl onions, tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric powder and sambar powder to a pressure cooker or a large pot. Cook till the dal becomes all mushy. If using a pressure cooker, let the pressure weight let the steam off (whistle) 3-4 times. Switch off and open once all the pressure is released. If cooking on stove top in a regular pot, it might take about 25 mins or so to be done.
  • Mix the sambar well and add salt. Heat the oil for tempering, add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the asafetida, curry leaves, dried red chillies and pearl onions. Once the onions have browned a little, pour this over the sambar. Garnish with minced cilantro and enjoy!