hotel style sambar

It is a matter of pride to us when the sambar or rasam served to our family meets with complete approval! especially to us Tamilians  the sambar must meet  the standards. Its like the yard stick to measure our  cullinary skills! While we do have a large variety of sambar and kozhambu varieties, none is comparable to the ultimate tiffin sambar or hotel sambar a term coined by hotel goers as they expect the same taste of hotel sambar in our house too, So we strive hard to get it right yet  something seems to be missing .

This is an attempt to create that taste after chatting with popular chefs in weddings or small functions where a similar sambar is served for tiffin .

A food blogger simply cannot pass up the chance to enquire more or even possibly sneak into the chefs kitchen to try and wangle out a few secrets in a round about way ! Some are very forthcoming and will rattle off the recipe in a nonchalant manner while I strive to store in my head .

Lets see if the sambar  meets with your expectations too…meanwhile am not saying this is the perfect recipe but it rates very high and I will continue to work on this recipe till I get a full 10 !.


Prep time
10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
8 cups
Recipe Type
South Indian /Side dish



  • 1 1/2 cup of small onions peeled (shallots)
  • 1 medium sized tomato finely chopped
  • 1 small gooseberry size tamrind or tamrind paste. slightly lesser than the ball of tamrind. Extract juice and keep aside.
  • 1/2 cup of moong dal or a combination of toordal and moong dal…I prefer moong dal only.
  • 2 long dry chillies
  • 1 tsp methi seeds
  • 1 tbsp of any sambar  powder you are already using for daily preparation.
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds,2 or 3 tbsp of oil,
  • Some curry leaves pinch of asafoetida/hing,1 tsp turmeric powder, and coriander leaves for garnishing

To roast and dry grind separately

2 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2  tsp methi seeds
1 tsp chana dal
2 tbsp gram dal( puttani )pottukadalai….no need to roast
1 tomato chopped (  to be added while grinding not roasted.)
1 green chilli
1 tsp rice to be roasted with roasting ingredients.
pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 dry red chilli and 2 tsp of home made sambar powder
3 tbsp of fresh grated coconut  or dry grated coconut.
Coconut is optional but tastes great when added .
As we are adding dry red chillies while tempering and  again for grinding the paste besides adding sambar powder, you can decide on the no.of dry chillies you want to add.Tip:  If you wish you can add  small sliced shallots about 4 samll ones,  too to the above while grinding , am told it gives most amazing flavor too.


  • First  take a spoon of oil or two in a pan and dry roast all the  dry ingredients given under to roast and dry grind heading till a fine aroma wafts
  • When cooled ,grind in a mixie with little water to get a paste. Keep aside
  • In a pan put some oil and let the mustard pop,add the methi seeds,dry red chillies and add the small onions and  stir them till the onions turn pink.When they are translucent ,add the chopped tomatoes and then add the tamrind water previously extracted from the ball of tamrind.
  • Add the sambar powder given in ingredients list,salt,hing,curry leaves and let boil for sometime til the onions and tomatoes are cooked well and a sambar aroma starts to waft, the mixture will thicken.
  • Take the cooked moong dal.mash well and add the ground paste also to the boiling sambar.The whole mixture will thicken .You need to add little water to prevent from too much thickening.
  • Let the sambar  boil on a low simmer for sometime as the raw smell of the ground paste has to go away.
  • After adding the mashed dal and the ground paste you will notice the sambar colour texture changing to a typical hotel style and also the aroma further enhanced as the ingredients in the ground paste blend well with the dal and veggies.
  • Remove from stove and garnish with coriander leaves.
  • No need for tadka / tempering  as it has been tempered previously.
  • Some add a bit of jaggery to give a hint of sweetness to sambar but I avoid this.Instead you can add some yellow pumpkin pieces along with tomatoes and onions to get the sweetish taste.
  • Some recipes have other vegetables too but  tiffin sambar tastes good with only onions and tomatoes.
  • Do not overdo the sambar by adding too many vegetables.If you ave noticed the hotel sambar has few vegetables but more gravy.
This sambar is somewhat similar to the aachavitta sambar, sambar made using roasted ground condiments with onions and tomatoes.or other vegetables.




  1. says

    Love to c ur posts.. Nice pictures. I too make saravana bhavan sambar but never tried adding dhania while roasting. I must try this way and update my recipe. thank u radha . Keep up ur gr8 work 🙂

  2. says

    Thanks Chitra.Your words mean a lot to me.As a fellow blogger you are generous in your praise but your pics are more stunning than what I do. but I have only just started so hoping to do better.Yes the addition of Dhania seeds does lift the taste.It gives the taste of arachavita sambar. The fried gram dal also does something to the sambar! Thanks for taking time off and stopping by….:)

  3. Anonymous says

    I'm going to try this next week… when u say "puttani" is it the one used for coconut chutney or Channa dhal? Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. says

    hi…putani is the fried gram dal we get or called pottukadalai in Tamil..not chana dal. We use the fried gram dal in coconut chutneys. Thanks for stopping by.Hope you make a tasty good sambar!

  5. Anonymous says

    Hi Radha, in your list to roast and grind you have added tomatoes; do you roast the tomatoes as well …
    also in the same list we are adding sambar powder to the mixture, and adding 1tblsp sambar powder in addition to this. Will it not have too much masala is you add this?

    So sorry am bugging you with so many doubts sambar is something that I am not very good at

  6. says

    no we dont roast the tomatoes, just grind it along with the roast and grind ingredients, to give a rich red colour to the sambar, this can be omitted if you dont want to do it. Or you can add tomato puree too. Addition of sambar powder separately and adding it again while grinding actually depends on how much spice you like in the sambar.In the first step we add 1 tbsp , and while grinding again I mentioned 2 tsp of sambar powder. You can omit this step and check on the taste. It will n ot alter the taste of sambar but only reduce the pungency which can be corrected even at the last stage when the sambar is done.I suggest you skip adding the 2 tsp while griniding the roasted ingredients and check on the taste and may b e add a little more when the sambar is boiling. As all other key ingredients are added a liitle more or less of sambar powder will not make a difference.thanks for the queries and I certainly dont mind answering them.:)

  7. says

    Hello Madam,

    I was searching for saravana bhavan style sambar and saw your post. Just now I tried your recipe..It is really tasty and my husband liked it very much.

  8. says

    Wow! So this is how it is done. I cook idli, dosa, sambhar chutney at home from recipes gleaned from my mother who had learnt from a Tamil friend in an Air force station.
    This recipe sounds really good. I will try it. I will also share it with my daughter who has just started experimenting with this. Thanks. 🙂

  9. Anonymous says

    Just made the awesomest sambar ever. Courtesy:your blog, Radha. I practically drank a cup. It was so yum. Thanks for the lovely recipe. -aish

  10. Anonymous says

    Hi mam, did the sambar, my husband tasted it n told it is like saravana bhavan sambar, thank u for the good recipe.

  11. Sonia says

    Thanks gonna try it next week on my hubby's bday…..can I know this quantity would serve how many. ….n m a learner making this on the first go would be successful or shall I try it before preparing it for family dinner

    • says

      A family of 4 can have this but depends on the portions they will have, for example, for having with dosas, idlis, this is enough for 4 , I always make small portions of any recipe that am ding first time, as we need to check, this is a great recipe and everyone in the family loves it, my suggestion would be make enough sambar and left over will always come handy next day and this sambar tastes good next day too on heating on slow flame.At home I just approximately prepare this sambar, but not a drop is left at the end of the day:-)

  12. Jessy says

    Hello mam, after a long trial and errors of trying hotel tiffin sambhar from different sites this is the perfect one & my hubby approved after long years & loved it.I saw a smile in his facce….,after a long journey of trying this hotel tiffin sambhar.I just added 1:1/2 ratio of toor dhal & moong dhal. Thanks a lot…..for this recipe.Hats off to you…

  13. says

    I just loved this recipe. I am writing this comment as I am making the sambhar. I just tasted the sambhar to check if everything is ok and voila I tasted the best sambhar ever!

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