Moru Sambar is an ancient dish from Tamilnadu, a variation to the regular sambar. Unlike the usual sambar, this one is made without any tamarind – buttermilk is used as the souring agent instead. Toor dal and vegetables go in too, just like in a sambar prepared the regular way. The flavour comes from freshly roasted and ground spices and coconut.
A closer look at the Moru Sambar
‘Moru’ is Tamil for ‘buttermilk’ and, hence, ‘Moru Sambar‘ refers to sambar made using watered-down yogurt. It is a delicious preparation, and makes for a nice change from the usual sambar and rasam varieties. It is different from Morekozhambu and More Kootu, two other heritage Tamilnadu dishes.
Moru Sambar is not a very difficult thing to put together at all. Here, I have shared my family recipe for this dish – it was my grandmother’s specialty, and the recipe below outlines the way she used to make it. Don’t be daunted by the length of the proceedure – I have merely tried to explain everything in detail so that the going is as easy as can be, for you guys.
A-Z Recipe Challenge
I am sharing this recipe for Moru Sambar in association with the A-Z Recipe Challenge.
The A-Z Recipe Challenge is undertaken by a group of passionate food bloggers. Every month, the participants showcase dishes that use ingredients in alphabetical order from A to Z. The letter for this month is Y, and I chose to put up this recipe that uses ‘yogurt’ as the central ingredient.
How to make Moru Sambar
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
To roast and grind:
1. 1/2 teaspoon oil
2. 1-1/2 tablespoon chana dal
3. 1-1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
4. 4 dry red chillies or as per taste
5. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
6. 1/4 cup fresh coconut
1. 1/2 cup toor dal
2. 1 cup thick sour yogurt (curd)
3. 1 teaspoon rice flour
4. 12-15 okra (ladies’ finger)
5. 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon oil
6. Salt to taste
7. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
9. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
10. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
For the tempering:
1. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2. 2 pinches of asafoetida
3. 2-3 dry red chillies
4. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
1. Wash the toor dal thoroughly. Drain out all the water.
2. Pressure cook the washed and drained toor dal with enough water to cover it, for 7-8 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. Cut off the tops of the okra. Then, chop them into 1-inch pieces.
4. Next, we will roast the ingredients required to make the spice paste for this dish. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chana dal, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and dry red chillies. Roast on medium flame till the dal starts browning, taking care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Now, keeping the flame at medium, add in the fresh coconut and roast for a minute more. Transfer all the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.
5. Take the sour yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add in the rice flour and about 1/2 cup of water. Whisk well together. Keep aside.
6. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. The dal should be well cooked and soft, with no hardness to it. Mash the cooked toor dal well. Keep aside.
7. When all the roasted ingredients have completely cooled down, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Grind everything together to a smooth paste, with a little water. Keep aside.
8. Now, we will start preparing the Moru Sambar. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the same pan we used earlier. Add in the okra pieces and sprinkle a bit of salt over them. Turn the flame down to medium.
9. Cook the okra on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till they are completely cooked. They will shrivel and change colour.
10. Add the cooked toor dal to the pan at this stage, still keeping the flame at medium.
11. Also add in the spice paste we ground earlier. Mix well.
12. Add in the salt to taste and turmeric powder. Add red chilli powder if using.
13. Add in the curry leaves. Also add in about 1 cup of water or as needed.
14. Cook everything together on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture thickens. Now, switch off gas and allow the mixture to cool down a bit – wait for 7-10 minutes.
15. With the flame still off, add the yogurt mixture to the pan. Stir constantly while adding it in.
16. Now, keep the pan on low-medium flame and let it get heated up. Stirring intermittently, wait for the mixture to come to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Switch off gas after the mixture has simmered for about 2 minutes. The Moru Sambar is almost ready. Mix in the finely chopped coriander.
17. Lastly, we will prepare the tempering. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a small tempering pan. Add in the mustard and allow it to sputter. Add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let the ingredients stay in the hot oil for a couple of seconds, then pour the tempering onto the prepared Moru Sambar. It is now ready to serve – serve it hot with steamed rice and a poriyal of your choice.
Is this a vegan and gluten-free recipe?
This Moru Sambar is not vegan (plant-based) because of the use of dairy yogurt in it. The yogurt is an important component of the sambar, and cannot be missed. I have not tried making this with non-dairy yogurt, so not sure if that would work.
Because of the use of asafoetida, this is not a gluten-free dish either. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. To make this dish completely gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida that is used in the tempering. If you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use it.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use yogurt prepared from full-fat milk for best results. Also, it’s best if the yogurt is sour. I have used home-made thick yogurt (aka curd) here.
2. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Moru Sambar that you require. Ideally, the Moru Sambar should be moderately thick – neither too watery nor too thick.
3. If the yogurt is not sour enough, you may add in a little tamarind paste. However, this is purely optional. If using tamarind paste, add it in along with the cooked toor dal and the spice paste.
4. I have used a mix of the not-so-spicy Bydagi dry red chillies and the hot Salem Gundu dry red chillies in the spice paste. Adjust the number of chillies you use as per personal taste preferences.
5. The red chilli powder is optional. Use it only if you feel the heat from the dry red chillies is not enough.
6. The yogurt, water and rice flour should be whisked well together. Do ensure this.
7. To prevent the yogurt mixture from splitting, please follow the steps exactly as stated above. Allow the mixture to cool down a little before adding the yogurt mixture to it with the gas switched off, stirring constantly. Then, heat it all up gently on a low flame.
8. I have used okra aka ladies’ finger here, to make the Moru Sambar. You may use other vegetables too – drumsticks and brinjals work really well.
9. Ghee can be used in the tempering, instead of the oil I have used here. However, stick to oil and don’t use ghee if you want the Moru Sambar to be vegan (plant-based).
10. Wheat flour can be used in the buttermilk, instead of the rice flour used in the above recipe. However, avoid using wheat flour – stick to rice flour – in case you want to keep the dish gluten-free.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!