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South Indian Pearl Onion Sambhar

Pearl Onion Sambhar is a South Indian delicacy and specialty. Served with rice, appetizers like Idli/Dosa, this tasty stew is made with lentils, coconut, small onions and tamarind.


  • 1 Lemon size tamarind ball/2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 cup peeled pearl onions
  • 2 green chillies
  • 1 to mato chopped roughly
  • 2 tbsp sambhar powder
  • Salt as required
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • Half inch ginger
  • 1 to mato
  • 1/2 cup tur dal
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Tadka
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Pinch of asafoetida


  • First we need to soak tamarind in hot water for 10 minutes and then squeeze out the juice. Discard the pulp. If not using fresh tamarind, then just add tamarind paste to the cooking pot along with water for the desired quantity. Add peeled pearl onions, green chillies and tomatoes to the pot. Begin to cook it for 2 minutes. Then add Sambhar powder and salt. Simmer and bring to a boil. Keep stirring at regular intervals. Let it cook for a good 15-20 minutes on low flame.
  • While its cooking, make a smooth paste of coconut, curry leaves, dried red chillies, ginger and tomato. Add water as required. Once you see that tamarind water has been reduced and has got thicker, add this ground paste. Mix and continue to cook for 7-10 minutes. Then add the boiled tur dal to it. This needs to be made in advance. Boil tur dal in water with turmeric powder. Whisk it and keep this ready and add to the sambhar when needed.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and take it off the flame. Now it's time to give tadka. Heat ghee in a tadka pan. Once the ghee melts, add fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add hing/asafoetida and take it off the pan. Pour this over the sambhar. It is now ready. Serve with steamed rice/idli/dosa/wada