Ask anybody who regularly prepares sambar and they’ll tell you.
You start with a potful of boiling water. Add the right amount of tamarind for sourness and cook your veggies until the raw smell of tamarind disappears.
On the side, you can start cooking the dal in a pressure cooker. Be sure to use toor dal. Add enough water and a pinch of salt and turmeric. Cook it under pressure for 8 minutes and let the cooker depressurise on its own. Mash the dal once you remove it from the pressure cooker.
After about 15 minutes of simmering, add the mashed dal to your pot of tamarind water. Also add a few teaspoons of powdered sambar spice mix to it and enough salt to balance all other tastes. Oh yes – everybody has some sambar powder stocked in their kitchen, correct?
In the end, temper with mustard and garnish with coriander leaves. Easy does it.
Preparing a sambar is darn easy, provided
– you have memorized the 10 steps involved
– know how to tell if the ‘raw smell of tamarind’ has disappeared
– know how to use a pressure cooker
– have the pre-made spice mix lying around
– are South Indian
Everything you can do is easy, until you dissect the numerous steps that your brain implicitly lumps together into one act – preparing sambar.