South Indian Tiffin Sambar - Let's Taco Bout it Blog

South Indian Tiffin Sambar

Recipe inspired by “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless.”

These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, “Business as usual.”

“But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.”

“These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush.”


South Indian Tiffin Sambar

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Life of Pi, Vegan
Servings 6


  • 1 cup red lentil (dal)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp ghee or melted butter
  • 1 large onion medium chopped
  • 1 thai chili or 1/2 jalepeno
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes not drained
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp tamrind juice or thick store bought pulp 1/4 tsp
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups 1 inch cubes pumpkin or butternut squash roasted or steamed until just tender*
  • 2 tsp sambar powder optional because it is a bit hard to find
  • 1 tbsp cilantro chopped


  1. Cook the dal until very tender and a bit mushy by heating up the dal, 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt in a medium saucepan for about 40 minutes.

  2. While that is cooking, heat the oil in a deep sauce pan on medium and add mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and dried coconut. Cook for about 5 minutes until the house smells spicy.

  3. To the large saute pan, add the ghee, chopped onion, chili, and garlic and saute them for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Now add in tomatoes, red chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt.  Again saute for 2-3 minutes.

  5. Finally, add in the tamarind juice, water, brown sugar, pumpkin, and sambar powder and bring to a low boil for 4-5 minutes.

  6. Stir in the dal and garnish with cilantro.

Recipe Notes

*You roast the pumpkin using the method in one of our other posts:


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