According to food historian K. T. Achaya, the earliest extant mention of sambar in literature can be dated back to 17th century. Sambar originated in the kitchens of Thanjavur . The chefs of Shahuji trying to make a dish called Amti, experimented with toor dal instead of moong dal and tamarind extract for kokum. The court named it sambar after the guest of the day, Sambhaji, the 2nd Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire.
Sambar often contains sambar powder, a coarse spice mix made of roasted lentils, roasted whole red chilies, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and sometimes asafoetida and curry leaves. Regional variations include cumin, black pepper, grated coconut, cinnamon, chana dal, urad dal, tur dal, or other spices.
The vegetables, tamarind pulp, sambar powder, turmeric, salt, and asafetida are boiled together until the vegetables are half-cooked. Then the cooked lentils are added and allowed to cook until the vegetables are done. A spice-scented oil is added to the cooked sambar for extra flavor and tempering, and the dish is served garnished with fresh coriander leaves.
The addition of spice-scented oils, or tarkas, made by popping mustard seeds and curry leaves and other ingredients in hot coconut or vegetable oil, at the end of cooking is a common Indian culinary technique and is known as tempering. A combination of mustard seeds, black gram, dried red chillies, and curry leaves fried in ghee or coconut or vegetable oil is one example of numerous oil flavorings used for sambar. Some variations include additional ingredients such as cumin seeds, shallots, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida powder. Some variations of sambar include ingredients such as moong dal and pumpkin.
CHENNAI: The story goes that the original recipe for sambar a dish which is so intrinsic to Tamil Nadu cuisine can actually be traced to Maratha ruler Shivaji's son. Legend has it that Shivaji's son Sambhaji, who was one of the Maratha rulers, attempted to make dal for himself when his head chef was away. Even in South India, Sambhar is prepared differently from region to region. This Dhee Masala blend is suited to all the various Sambhar preparations. "When Sambar Makes Your Day Like Nothingelse Could"