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Small Onion Sambar (Shallot Sambar) for Idli and Dosa

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Small onion sambar served with idli

Small onion sambar served with idli

Idli and Small Onion Sambar: The Perfect Breakfast!

Idli are steamed dumplings that are a breakfast staple in India. Made with white lentils and rice semolina, they are nutritious, delicious, and easily digestible. Since the idli on their own are bland, they are typically served with a spicy side dish, such as spicy chutney or sambar. Recently, idli was voted as one of the healthiest breakfast dishes in the world.

Sambar is a spicy curry made with split pigeon peas (toor dal), vegetables, and spices. Small onions (Madras onions or shallots) are tiny onions that have a unique flavor. These onions are considered to be the best for making this particular sambar. South Indian restaurants serve idli with small onion sambar and chutney.

You can easily make this restaurant-style sambar at home. Last weekend, I made this recipe for breakfast. Dunking the idli in the small onion sambar and scooping it up was fun.

Let me share with you a detailed small onion sambar recipe.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

30 min

45 min

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups small onions (Madras onions or shallots), cleaned and peeled
  • 1/2 cup carrots, thinly diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup split pigeon peas
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 dry red chili, broken
  • Sprig curry leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons sambar powder (see recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind, soaked in water
  • 1 teaspoon jaggery, powdered
  • 3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions

  1. Add split pigeon peas, water, and carrots to a pressure cooker container. Cook in the pressure cooker until 4 whistles and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Set aside.
  2. Heat a deep-bottomed pan and add oil. Throw in the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add broken red chilies, curry leaves, and hing powder. Saute for 10 seconds.
  3. Add small onions. Saute on high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add chopped tomatoes and salt. Continue to saute until tomatoes wilt.
  4. Add the mixture of cooked pigeon peas and carrots. Increase the heat. Add powdered jaggery, turmeric powder, sambar powder, tamarind juice, and remaining salt. Add 3-4 cups of water. Mix with a ladle.
  5. Let the mixture boil for 4-5 minutes. Add chopped coriander leaves and stir once. Turn off heat.
  6. The sambar should have a moderately thin consistency. Flavorful and delicious small onion sambar is ready to serve!
  7. Serve it hot with idli or dosa. You can use the remaining sambar with cooked rice.

Photo Tutorial

Step one: Cook pigeon peas and carrots as per instructions. Set aside.

Step one: Cook pigeon peas and carrots as per instructions. Set aside.

Step two: Add oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Heat it. Add mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add broken red chilies, hing powder, and curry leaves. Saute for 10 seconds.

Step two: Add oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Heat it. Add mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add broken red chilies, hing powder, and curry leaves. Saute for 10 seconds.

Step three: Add small onions. Increase heat. Saute it for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.

Step three: Add small onions. Increase heat. Saute it for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add chopped tomatoes and some salt. Continue to saute until tomatoes become soft.

Add chopped tomatoes and some salt. Continue to saute until tomatoes become soft.

Step four: Add pigeon pea-carrot mixture. Increase heat.

Step four: Add pigeon pea-carrot mixture. Increase heat.

Add turmeric powder, tamarind paste, jaggery powder, remaining salt, and sambar powder. Add 3-4 cups of water.

Add turmeric powder, tamarind paste, jaggery powder, remaining salt, and sambar powder. Add 3-4 cups of water.

Mix it well. Let the mixture boil for 4 minutes. Add chopped coriander leaves. Stir the mixture once. Turn off heat.

Mix it well. Let the mixture boil for 4 minutes. Add chopped coriander leaves. Stir the mixture once. Turn off heat.

Your favorite small onion sambar is ready to serve!

Your favorite small onion sambar is ready to serve!

Small onion sambar

Small onion sambar

Serve it hot with idli or dosa.

Serve it hot with idli or dosa.

Dip idli in this yummy curry and scoop!

Dip idli in this yummy curry and scoop!

Sambar Powder Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 5-6 dry red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 2 teaspoons grated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 6-8 curry leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add fenugreek seeds and Bengal gram. Saute on low heat for 5 seconds.
  2. Add all other ingredients except grated coconut. Saute until the mixture becomes golden brown. Lastly, add grated coconut. Saute for 10 seconds. Turn off heat. Allow it to cool.
  3. When it cools down completely, add it to a blender or mixer jar. Grind to get a smooth powder. Collect it in a bowl.
  4. Use this sambar powder for making curries, sambar, or many other dishes.
Idli dipped in small onion sambar

Idli dipped in small onion sambar