One of the things I missed most when I moved out of Mumbai was something I had taken for granted all those years when I was growing up - Udipi restaurants. They dotted the landscape, especially the King's Circle and Matunga neighbourhood where we lived, and we loved the food they dished out. Clean, efficient and cheap - these were places we went to whether we wanted an early morning South Indian breakfast on a Sunday morning or a pav bhaji in the evenings. College saw us practically camped in one of these places as our burgeoning appetite never matched our wallets - we enjoyed their paper dosais and masala uttapams, their thick milkshakes and cold juices.
Anand Bhavan was a particular favourite of my Dad's for their rasam wadas, while I preferred the AC Udipi Cafe. Mom loved the South Indian "meals" at the Udipi place near Matunga station - unlimited food for Rs. 40!. Shree Sundars came much later when I had just started my degree in Podar and it became an instant favourite with our gang. Then there were the die hard fans of Mani's behind Ruia college where they literally drank the chutney! What is your favourite Udipi place to eat in Mumbai?
When I moved to Chennai and ate my first idli outside of home at Saravana Bhavan - I didn't like it! Because they didn't have the Udipi sambar to go with it, nor the flat, large, coarse idlis. The sambar at the eating places in Chennai were almost like what we made at home - there was no tantalising hint of sweetness at the edges nor was there coconut in the masala. The sambar at Udipi restaurants have their own fan following - on Sunday mornings in Anand Bhavan we found it amusing to see people coming and ordering plates of idlis and dosais as take away; they would bring those steel many-tiered dabbas to fill up extra "sambhur"!
It was then that I got hold of this recipe and whenever the urge struck, I would make Udipi Sambar at home. I love this sambar and often serve it with idlis or dosai or just with rice for lunch. Its the jaggery and the coconut which make all the difference. I used drumsticks and small onions - but feel free to substitute with pumpkin, ash gourd or even just small onions alone.
Everytime I go back to Mumbai, I make it a point to visit our old haunts. A visit to Udipi itself is on my travel list, but don't know when that will happen. This month though we are likely to have a virtual food tour of Udipi & Mangalore courtesy this month's RCI theme - Udipi & Mangalorean cuisine - being hosted by Sia of Monsoon Spice.
This event was originally the brainchild of Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine.
Tur dal - 1/2 cup (cooked in 3-4 cups water in a pressure cooker till soft, then whipped or mashed till smooth)
Tamarind - small lime size ball soaked in 1 cup water and pulp extracted
Small onions - 10-12, soaked and peeled
1 tsp jaggery
1-2 drumsticks, chopped into 2-3" batons
1/4 coconut grated (fresh)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
1/2 tsp urad dal seeds
1.5 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
dried red chillies -6
curry leaves - handful
1 tsp oil
Roast all ingredients, keeping the coconut and curry leaves to the last few minutes. Cool and grind to a paste
mustard seeds (rai) - 1 tsp
urad dal seeds - 1tsp
green chilli - 1 slit
curry leaves - handful
asafoetida (hing) - pinch
2 tsp oil
1. In a heavy pan, add the oil and when it is hot the tempering ingredients. Saute the onions and then add the drumstick pieces and cook in half a cup of water till just tender.
2. Pour in the tamarind pulp, salt to taste and jaggery - add 1.5 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower flame and simmer for about 10-15 minutes till the raw smell disappears.
3. Add the mashed dal and the masala paste and simmer for another 5 minutes, adding some more water if it is too thick.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and serve with idlis.