If you are used to making your own sambar powder, I bet you do not like the feeling when you get to the bottom of the container. You are probably thinking, “Ugh!! Now, I got to schedule time to make sambar powder” or “Maybe I can just use up the extra curry/rasam powder, who is going to notice?” or “Let me just google any south indian dish that does not involve sambar powder”. Finally, a week or two later, you throw in the towel and decide to make a batch.
I have an efficiency hack for you, that will help you make the powder without all the stress listed above.
Why do you want to use the oven?
Here are the advantages of roasting it in the oven over dry roasting over a stove:
No need to babysit the spices constantly stirring it every few seconds.
No need to inhale the spice smoke (called ‘nedi’ in Tamil)
No need to allocate special time for it. You can have it roasting in the oven with a timer while you carry on prepping and cooking dinner simultaneously.
Sambar powder is a South Indian spice mix made of roasted spices and lentils that are then ground into a fine powder. The perfect sambar powder is the one your mom or grandma makes. This recipe version is the one my mother taught me. This is a very basic version that I have used for the past 15 years. I am sure many websites will give you much more fancier versions. I will give you a basic framework, you can take it and modify to suit your individual tastes.
I layer the spices in the oven in the order of how long it takes each ingredient to cook. I start off with toor dal that takes longest to cook all the way to red chilies which takes the least amount of time.
When roasted and powdered, toor dal serves as a thickener when added to the sambar. The proportion of toor dal matters – Too much, and the sambar gets bland. Too little and the rest of the spice gets overwhelming.
This ingredient needs to go in the oven first, it takes the longest time to get roasted.
This is a key south indian spice. Every sambar powder will have this ingredient. This takes the 2nd longest time to get roasted.
This adds another dimension of hotness (spicy) compared to red chilies. This is the 3rd ingredient to be added for roasting.
This is a bitter seed in which a small amount goes a long way. This adds a layer of sharpness to the sambar. This goes in at the same time as the black pepper.
This adds the much needed south indian hotness (karam). The proportion I use is less to make it very child-friendly. Red chilies gets burnt quickly and needs to go in the end only for a very few minutes.
Step by Step Photos
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roast toor dal for 10 minutes.
Add coriander seeds next and roast for 5 minutes
Add black pepper and fenugreek seeds next and roast for 5 minutes
Add red chilies next and roast for 3 minutes
Cool the spices and add to a blender
Oven Roasted Sambar Powder Recipe
Ingredients (Makes about 1.5 cups)
1/3 cup Toor Dal
1 cup Coriander Seeds
1/4 cup Red Chillies
2 Tblsp Black Pepper
1 Tblsp Methi Seeds
Preheat the oven to 350F. Assemble all ingredients in place by the time the oven reaches the set temperature.
Add toor dal (thuvaram paruppu) to the pan. Set timer for 10 minutes and put in the oven
After 10 minutes, takes the toor dal out. It will have a light roasted color. Add coriander seeds, stir it and pop it in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Take the pan and add the black pepper and fenugreek seeds. Stir it and pop it in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Take the pan and add the red chillies. Stir it and pop it in the oven for another 3 minutes.
Take the pan out. Let the spices cool.
Add the spices to a blender and blend until fine.
Ta-da!! Sambar powder ready
You can apply the same logic to other powders like rasam powder, paruppu podi, etc. The only caveat is that you need to be in sync with the timer. If you have a timer which sounds as annoying as mine, trust me you will be forced to be in sync with it :).
Have you used the oven to roast dals before? Let me know your thoughts.