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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy's Kitchen Prescription



Sambar Masala                                                                     

This beautifully aromatic spice blend flavors the delectable and very nourishing South Indian lentil and vegetable soup that shares its name (see Sambar and Dosa).  Pre-ground commercial sambar powders are available in shops and online. However, trust me, it is more than worth your while to devote a bit of time to roast and grind this masala yourself. Not only will it generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions and cost far less, and you will be richly rewarded with a spice blend that is infinitely more flavorful and nutritiously potent.


Prep 30 minutes

Makes ½ cup


1/3 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) resin, freshly ground

5 to 6 dried Kashmiri chilis, stems removed

A large sprig of fresh curry leaves

1½ teaspoon chana dal

¾ teaspoon urad dal

1/8 cup coriander seeds

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds

1/3 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

¾ teaspoon black peppercorns

1/3 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric


  • Using a coffee grinder, grind the resinous asafoetida nuggets into a fine powder. Store any excess in the refrigerator to better preserve its potency.
  • Heat a small cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. We will dry roast in three separate batches: first the two dals. Roast them, stirring, until they are lightly toasted, then transfer to a medium bowl.
  • Next roast the Kashmiri chilies and curry leaves, pressing them down with a spatula and flipping them over as they become likely toasted. The chilies will soften, and the curry leaves will become crispy as they dry. Transfer them to the bowl.
  • Lastly roast the black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and black mustard seeds. These can burn and become bitter in a flash. Roast them for 30 seconds to a minute, just until you they become aromatic but before they begin to smoke. Transfer them to the bowl.
  • When cool, grind the roasted ingredients using a coffee grinder. Pour it back into the bowl and stir in the ground asafoetida and turmeric powder.
  • Store Sambar Masala in a jar with a tight lid and place in the dark, cool cupboard away from heat sources, or in the refrigerator.

Sambar Masala

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