Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

A spicy lentil and vegetable stew, served with idli for breakfast or lunch.


  • 80 g ( oz/2 tablespoons) tamarind pulp*, soaked in 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) warm water
  • 300 g (10½ oz) pumpkin, peeled, cut into 3 cm ( inch) cubes
  • 300 g (10½ oz) long, thin light purple eggplants, cut into 3 cm ( inch) pieces
  • 200 g (7 oz) snake beans*, cut into 4 cm ( inch) pieces
  • 300 g (10½ oz) potatoes, peeled, cut into 3 cm ( inch) cubes
  • 350 g (12 oz) manioc* (cassava) (or 300 g/10½ oz frozen), peeled, cut into 3 cm ( inch) cubes
  • 190 g ( oz/1 cup) red lentils, washed well
  • teaspoons Bamini’s roasted curry powder (or store-bought roasted curry powder)
  • 2 teaspoons unroasted chilli powder*
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut cream*

For Tempering

  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 red onions*, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 3 sprigs curry leaves, leaves picked
  • 3-4 dried long red chillies*, chopped


Prepare the tamarind pulp following the method. Set the tamarind water aside.

Place all the vegetables and the red lentils into a stockpot, then add 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) water, or enough to cover. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost cooked and the lentils are soft (the lentils will absorb most of the liquid). Add the curry powder, chilli powder, turmeric and salt; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the coconut cream and tamarind water and bring to just below the boil, stirring regularly so the coconut cream doesn’t split. Add a little more water if needed (the consistency should be liquidy). Remove from the heat just before it boils and set aside.

For tempering, heat the oil in a small wok or frying pan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are tender but not brown. Add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and dried chillies and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions are dark golden. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve. Add the tempered onion mixture to the sambar (reserving a spoonful for garnish) and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt, and garnish with the reserved tempered onion mixture. Serve with steamed rice or idli and green coconut chutney.