My mother is a great exponent of the traditional Sambhar which is a favourite dish in South India. Her and her mother, my adored grandmother – all great sambhar experts make it with such authentic aroma and taste. They offer such a glorious feast for the tastebuds, when mixed with tenderly cooked kernels of white rice.
My mother grew up in a village called Krishnapuram in Tirunelveli District. My grandmother was so particular about the taste of sambhar that if there was the least bit of change in the taste, she would refuse to have it. So here’s an interesting story about my mother, my grandmother and the sambhar.
My Late Grandmother
The traditional wisdom is that sambhar was usually cooked in kalchatti or soapstone vessels in the deep south. Kalchatti keeps it warm for hours after cooking. My grandmother would boil the masala for the sambhar and add the cooked toor dal at the very end of the cooking phase. After adding the dal, she would bring the sambhar to a boil and then turn the fire off. This and only this was the traditional sambhar that she would touch.
Once was that sambhar was stored in a stainless steel vessel. Needless to say, it cooled in a short while. Then my mom reheated it and served it to grandmother, who simply refused to touch it. The reason – you won’t believe this – when reheated, the dal boils the second time and the taste goes away. From that day onwards, both my mom and my grandmother have been cooking only in kalchatti to prevent the dal being boiled again.
Kalchatti keeps the sambhar warm for 4 to 5 hours, so there’s no need to reheat it. Even today, when my mom makes the sambhar, it is full of ‘motherly’ aroma & flavour, based on the wisdom she’s gained from my sambhar-expert grandmother.