Sambhar - Indian Lentil Soup Recipe

A talented chef de cuisine shows us how to make sambhar

Anup Joshi was working at All Spice in San Mateo, California, when he received a call from his former boss, Seamus Mullen, inviting him to come back to New York City to help him open Tertulia. Though it may seem unusual for a chef to leave a modern Indian restaurant in California for a Spanish one in Manhattan, it was a homecoming for Joshi, 27, who worked with Mullen at Mullen's first restaurant, Boqueria. A native of Chester, New Jersey, Joshi has traveled extensively, most recently spending six months in Pune, India, cooking alongside his grandmother. For Tasting Table, he prepared an inspired take on sambhar, loaded with vegetables he purchased at Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery in Jackson Heights, Queens, not far from where he lives.

Recipe adapted from Anup Joshi, Tertulia, New York City

Sambhar (Indian Lentil Stew)
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Meet Anup Joshi, chef de cuisine at Tertulia in New York City, and get his recipe for Indian sambhar.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
  • 2 cups toor dal (split yellow lentils; available at Indian markets)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, divided
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (available at Indian markets)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds (available at Indian markets)
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1 teaspoon ground red chile powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon homemade (click here to see recipe) or store-bought sambhar masala (available at Indian markets)
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (available at Indian markets)
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 baby carrots, trimmed and peeled, or 4 small carrots--trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise on a bias
  • ½ English cucumber, peeled and scooped with a melon baller
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes (preferably Sun Gold)
  • 6 small radishes, trimmed and halved (preferably breakfast radishes)
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Optional Ingredients
  • 4 fresh curry leaves (optional; available at Indian markets)
  1. In a large bowl, cover the lentils with 2 inches of tepid water. Stir in 1 teaspoon turmeric and the fenugreek seeds. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the lentils and transfer to a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and purée the lentils in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  3. In a large soup pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, about 2 to 3 minutes, add the dried chile and curry leaves. Fry for 10 seconds, then stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon turmeric, the chile powder, sambhar masala and the onions. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are soft, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the paste darkens, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tamarind paste, salt, vegetable broth and puréed lentils. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the carrots and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, then add the cucumber balls, cherry tomatoes, radishes and peas. Cook until the raw vegetables are warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the cilantro and serve.
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