Sambhar Sadam from the Isha Ashram in Coimbatore.

Sāmbhar is everywhere in South India. Isha’s Sāmbhar Sadham is an especially delicious version. What is it?

Sāmbhar is a vegetable and lentil stew. It’s usually enjoyed for breakfast with idli or puttu (rice dumplings or rice and coconut cakes). Sadham is Tamil for rice. With the addition of Sadham to Sāmbhar, the dish becomes a hearty main course for dinner at Isha.

Split pigeon peas (Toor Dal) are the usual lentil. Drumsticks (saragavo or moringo) are almost always one of the vegetables. Tamarind and curry leaves are key flavour notes. Many versions have asafoetida, but Isha’s recipe does not.

Vegetable preparation at the Akshaya at Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
5 to 10 gallon buckets of vegetables – photo by Pauli-Ann Carriere

There’s lots of chopping involved. But, every time we make this recipe we remember the day we spent at Isha’s Akshaya (kitchen).

At Isha, they make enough of this recipe to feed a minimum of 3500 people. Instead of a few cups of each vegetable, the cooks chop five to 10 gallon pails of vegetables to add to their giant kettles. This makes our home cooking efforts humble by comparison.

When we sat in the Biksha dining hall to enjoy Isha’s Sāmbhar Sadham with the other diners, we were truly grateful for the dedication the kitchen team puts into everything they make. Everything is 100 per cent from scratch in the Akshaya.

Note: We are grateful to Isha Yoga Center for sharing this recipe. If you enjoy this recipe, check out the other Isha recipes including Green Gram Sprout SaladCoconut Mango CrispCoconut Buns and Sukku Coffee in the posts that follow.

Isha’s Sāmbhar Sadham with Kosambari Salad Recipe

8 - 10


For the Sāmbhar:
4 cups (250 grams) basmati rice
6 cups water
2/3 cup (125 grams) Toor dal
1 teaspoon (4 grams) turmeric
1 cup (83 grams) – green peas
1 cup (83 grams) chopped carrot
1½ cups (125 grams) chopped potato
1 cup (83 grams) green beans – sliced in 1-inch segments
1½ cups (125 gm) – drumsticks (Saragevo or Moringo) chopped in 1-inch segments
2 cups (250 grams) – chopped, peeled ash gourd
2 cups (250 grams) chopped tomato
2 chopped raw mango
5 teaspoons (17 grams) Isha Sāmbhar powder*
1 teaspoon (8 grams) mild chili powder – like Kashmiri
5 teaspoons (13 grams) ground coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon (13 grams) Tamarind paste
1 teaspoon (4 grams) salt (I used Kosher salt)

For the spice tempering:
1 Tablespoon (15 mL) peanut or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon (4 grams) black mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons (8 grams) Urad dal
1 teaspoon (4 grams) fenugreek seeds
1½ teaspoons (4 grams) black peppercorns (coarsely ground in a mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon (5 grams) dried chilli flakes
1/3 cup (8 grams) fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ghee
1 – 2 Tablespoons (13 – 26 grams) of finely cut coriander leaves

For the homemade Sāmbhar powder:
Isha’s Sāmbhar powder is available through Isha Shoppe but if you cannot access it, or one from your local Indian grocer, you may make this substitute.
½ cup (125 mLs) coriander seeds
2 Tablespoons (26 grams) cumin seeds
16 to 18 dry red chillies (use mild chilies like goondu milagai or pascabels)
1½ teaspoons (8 mL) fenugreek seeds
1 Tablespoon (15 mL) black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons (26 grams) chana dal (split husked Bengal gram)
1 Tablespoon (13 mL) Urad dal (split husked black gram)
⅓ cup (80 mL) fresh curry leaves
½ Tablespoon (8 grams) black mustard seeds
½ Tablespoon (8 grams) turmeric

For the Kosambari Salad:
1/3 cup (63 grams) moong dal
1 long English cucumber
1/4 cup (20 grams) grated coconut
2 Tablespoons (25 grams) fresh chopped coriander leaves
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons (25 grams) lemon juice


To make the Sāmbhar:
1. Wash the rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear then soak the in fresh water for 30 minutes.
2. Bring the 6 cups of water to boil in a large pot and stir in the dal and turmeric powder.
3. Continue boiling until the dal starts to soften (about 5 minutes) and then drain the soaked rice and add it to the pot.
4. Boil the dal and rice another 5 to 10 minutes then check for doneness. When they are almost cooked but not completely tender when you bite into them, add the peas, carrots, potato, green beans, drumsticks, gourd, tomato and mango followed by the Sāmbhar powder, chili powder, ground coriander, tamarind paste and salt. Stir well.
5. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook until the vegetables are fork tender. Tip: you may need to add a bit more water to keep the rice from sticking.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
To make the tempered spices:
1. Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat and adding the mustard seeds, Urad dal, fenugreek seeds, pepper corns, chilli flakes and curry leaves.
2. Wait for the mustard seeds to pop and then pour this mixture over the Sāmbhar Sadham along with the ghee.
3. Enjoy as a main or side dish garnished with the coriander leaves.

For the homemade Sāmbhar powder:
1. Heat a pan over medium-low heat and then add the coriander and cumin seeds and dry roast them until they become fragrant and become golden in colour. Transfer them to a baking tray and let the spices cool. Return the pan to the heat.
2. Remove the crown from the chilies and add them to the pan stirring them until they darken in colour and develop a pungent smoky aroma. Transfer them to the baking tray with the other spices.
3. Return the pan to the heat and add the fenugreek seeds, stirring often until they are brown. Transfer to the baking tray.
4. Return the pan to heat and add the black pepper, stir often and roast until aromatic. Transfer to the baking tray.
5. Return the pan to the heat and add the chana dal, stirring at intervals until golden brown then transfer to the baking tray.
6. Return the pan to the heat and add the Urad dal, stirring until golden and fragrant. Transfer to the baking sheet.
7. Return the pan to the heat and add the curry leaves and roast until become crisp. Transfer the baking tray.
8. Return the pan to the heat and add the mustard seeds and wait until they finish popping before transferring them to the baking sheet.
9. Let the roasted spices cool to room temperature then transfer to spice grinder and blend to a fine powder (you may need to do this in a couple of batches).
10. Place the ground spices in a large bowl and add the turmeric, stirring well.
11. Store in an airtight jar.

For the Kosambari Salad:
Soak the moong dal for 20 minutes.
Dice the cucumber – you can leave the peel on.
Drain the dal and place in a bowl with the cucumber.
Add the coriander leaves, coconut, salt, pepper and lemon juice and stir to combine.
Enjoy immediately, while the moong dal are still crisp.

Courtesy of the Akshaya, Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, South India and used with permission, thank you for trying a recipe.

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