Keeraithandu Sambhar-Amaranth Stem Stew

Sambar is the classic southern stew. Every kitchen has its own recipe. Amaranth stem provides a nice texture, dals add smoothness and sambar powder(the famous spice mix) add the necessary spices to this wonderful dish. I first tasted amaranth stem sambar in my aunt’s home and never forgot its mesmerizing taste.. For years now I’ve been trying to duplicate that fragrant aroma while still maintaining texture and nutrition. Finally tonight I think I got it, I this recipe is just like my aunt’s. It IMG_0318might be the fresh turmeric that a coworker brought in for me thinking I would put it to good use that did the trick!!. I love this sambar so much I simply had to share my recipe with you..

1 ½ cups amaranth stem, chopped
½ cup toor dal (pigeon peas)Seasoning Mix
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
5 curry leaves
1 tsp coconut oil
Spice Mix
½ tsp fresh turmeric root
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp yellow split peas
1 tsp coriander seeds
¾ tsp tamarind paste
¼ tsp cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
½ tsp urad dal
1 dry red chili
Pinch hing
Salt to taste
Serves 4

Pots n pans
Wok or fry pan
Spice grinder or coffee grinder

• Wash toor dal. Add ¼ tsp turmeric, cover dal with 1 cup water and cook in pressure cooker or in saucepan. Remove. When slightly cool add about ¼ cup water mashing with a spoon to make dal smooth without any lumps,

• Finely chop Amaranth stem. Set aside.

• Heat oil in fry pan. Add the seasoning mix in this order- mustard seeds, when they splutter, add fenugreek and 5 curry leaves.

• Add chopped amaranth stem and sauté lightly.

• Add 2 cups water to cover amaranth stem. Add tamarind paste and water & let come to boil. This is the first boil which does 2 things : 1) cooks amaranth stem 2) boils tamarind so any raw flavours are gone.

• While water is boiling, in skillet dry roast these spices together: split peas, coriander seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, cumin.

IMG_0312• Transfer to spice mill. Dry roast the red chili & curry leaves and also transfer to spice mill. Grind to a fine powder. Set aside this spice powder. Your sambar powder is ready.

• Add 1 tsp sambar powder to boiling water in saucepan and let come to 2nd boil. This boil is to round off the sambar powder & bring it together with amaranth stem.

• Add cooked dal and let come to 3rd boil. This boil will round off the dal with sambar powder & amaranth stem.

• Remove from fire. Serve hot with rice.

About sambar powder
Sambar powder is a unique combination of a few primary spices. Feel free to alter the ratio of spices to your own taste using my proportion as a guide. I kept the heat factor quite low as I wanted the other spices to shine through. You could if you like, easily add a red chili during the mustard seasoning step.


My grandmother, grand aunts, mother and aunts roast their unique sambar spice mix at home. Grinding is barely ever done at home, instead taken to spice mills which do a fine job of grinding various spices together and very fast. My mom does something quite interesting—knowing that many women bring their spices to be ground in the mill, she takes a few grains of rice to the millman who first passes the rice through the mill, removing any fragrances caused by spices alien to my mom’s sambar mix and then he grinds her spices –so she has her spice flavours intact without any other competing flavours from other spices.

Turmeric-don’t fret if you can’t find fresh turmeric. Its quite a luxury and I just got lucky. You can easily make do with dry turmeric or turmeric powder.

Tamarind-Fresh tamarind yields a rich red hue to sambar, but who has the time to soak it in water & squeeze out the pulp. Tamarind paste works equally well, it will give a deeper hue to sambar.

Vegetables-I used amaranth stem as I had that remaining from my amaranth leaf soup recipe.. Onions, okra, radish, eggplant, turnip are all great substitutes.

Spice mix-The portions I suggested would make slightly over 3 teaspoons of sambar powder. Reserve the remaining powder in an airtight bottle for another time. It will stay fragrant for months if you store in the freezer compartment of your fridge.

In all our runaround to find new and tantalizing recipes, its always good to see how classics come right back into fashion.. Amaranth has been used for hundreds of years in southern indian cooking. I really hope you’ll give this sambar a try to get a taste of an amazing past.

–soul of spice–


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Seema says:

    very nice, Charu! Thanks for the detailed recipe – the pictures are really good! What is the hindi name for amaranth and where can I find it?

    1. soulofspice says:

      glad you liked it Seema. Amaranth is chauli or chavleri saag in hindi..look for it in chinese grocery stores. Check out pix in my earlier post of Amaranth soup

  2. thehungrymum says:

    I can almost smell the aromas from here – yum!

    1. soulofspice says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment. Sambar has that reaction – virtually sending some over to you 😉

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