I had visited the place during one of my childhood trips and have some vague memories attached to it but those definitely not include the regional food. I just had an idea that their food is mostly influenced by Tamil and French cuisines and when I set out in search of a region-specific recipe, I landed here. Aparna had prepared this sambhar after reviewing the cookbook called "The Pondicherry Kitchen - Traditional recipes from the Indo-French territory" by Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Louis.
I had no idea that I would end up with two back to back regional dal recipes when I cooked them though they are different as chalk and cheese. My yesterday post of Oriyan dalma is unique in it's own way and has east Indian cooking influence. This Pondicherry sambhar of course have traces of south Indian style cooking and in fact prepared in the same way as the regular sambhar. The only difference being that a crushed cumin-pepper combo is used in place of sambhar powder and that makes the whole difference. Believe it or not it doesn't resemble the typical sambhar in the taste/flavor department, because of the same reason. However I do advise to go easy with the peppercorn-chili quality since their combined effect is pretty strong. The original recipe had 6 red chillies and 1/2 tbsp peppercorns that seemed too intense since I am more used to the chillies than the peppercorns in a sambhar recipe. And also don't get intimidated by the long list of ingredients as the recipe is a simple one. A good regional dal recipe to have in one's repertoire.
1 cup toor dal / pigeon peas
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups water
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp split, skinned black gram / urad dal
3 - 4 garlic cloves
4 - 6 dry red chillies, each broken into 2
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 big eggplants, cut into big pieces
1 tomato, cut into pieces
1 tsp jaggery
1 stalk of curry leaves
2 big onions / 4 -5 shallots, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 tbsp tamarind puree
1/2 tbsp coarsely crushed cumin seeds
1 tsp coarsely powdered black peppercorns
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
* Add toor dal, turmeric and water to a pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles or until the dal is cooked soft. Turn off the stove and let the pressure subside. Once the valve pressure is gone, strain the water out and keep it aside. This water can be used to cook the vegetables. Mash the dal in the cooker and set it aside.
* Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard and urad to it and let them splutter. Then add garlic if using and toast until they turn golden brown. Next add the red chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves and onion. Fry for 3 -4 minutes and then add tomato and eggplants. Add the water strained out from the dal earlier.
* Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are done.
* Add cooked dal, tamarind, salt, jaggery, cumin and peppercorns to the pan. Stir and adjust seasonings if needed.
* Let it simmer for about ten minutes and add the coriander leaves just before turning off the stove.
* Serve hot with rice and any vegetable preparation.
1. Substitute any other vegetable in place of eggplants.
2. Garlic was crushed and added along the tamarind, jaggery and other stuff in the original recipe. I preferred to add toasted garlic cloves instead of the raw, crushed garlic.