Sizzling Tastebuds

Hotel style Tiffin Sambhar | How to make Tiffin Sambhar

I learnt of Hotel style Sambhar or Tiffin Sambhar as its popularly known only when I started blogging. While growing up in Bangalore, it only seemed that the sambhar served at restaurants were a little runny type and also lighter compared to the Sambhar served at Tamilnadu restaurant.


A little more reading, and I tripped upon this interesting anecdote as to how both the word and the dish Sambhar was born ” 

The story goes that the original recipe for sambar a dish which is so intrinsic to Tamil Nadu cuisine can actually be traced to Maratha ruler Shivaji’s son. Legend has it that Shivaji’s son Sambhaji, who was one of the Maratha rulers, attempted to make dal for himself when his head chef was away. “He added a little tamarind to the dal that he made and the royal kitchen dared to correct him on the fact that tamarind was not used in dal, but Sambhaji loved his own concoction, which was then referred to as sambar. Although Sambhaji’s sambhar is more lore than recipe, and there are more than 50 varieties of sambar today, chefs do admit that the Tanjore sambar is still something to be savoured. “While the Sambhaji influenced sambhar was more a tamarind soup, the Thanjavur brahmin sambar recipe is mostly followed today where there is no onion and garlic, and the dish is not heavy on spice, But even today, the sambar of Tamil Nadu is very different from you find in the state’s neighbour Karnataka,In TN, dry powders are used, while in Karnataka they use wet pastes. In Tamil Nadu, in a traditional vegetarian meal, sambar is served first and then rasam, but it is the opposite in Karnataka,” (Source : Here)

For food afficionados, there is a detailed very interesting story – the Story of Sambhar by Padmini Natarajan – here..


Whether the anecdote is real or not, today’s dish : Hotel Tiffin Sambhar is served with Idli / Dosa Or Uttapams / Pongal / Vadai) in all Tamilnadu restaurants. Its way thicker than its counterpart in Karnataka or Kerala. Addition of onions is optional (especially for strictly brahminical satvic homes in Tamilnadu who dont eat onion or garlic) , but lends a subtle flavour. I have served the Sambhar with Soft Idlis.

Lets get to see how to make this. we like it generally without onions and garlic, however, you can add it as per preference.

Prep time : 15 mins, Cook time : 20 mins | Serves : 4

Hotel Tiffin Sambhar : Vegan and Gluten Free Side dish 

served with most South Indian Breakfasts ( Idli / Dosa Or Uttapams / Pongal / Vadai)


  • Red Pumpkin / Parangikai / Kaddu / Squash – 250 gms
  • Toor dal / Split pigeon pea – 1/2 cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Tamarind – a large roundel (large lemon sized)
  • Jaggery – 1 TBSP (opt.)
  • Oil – 2 TBSP
  • Coriander leaves – for garnish (opt.)

To grind *

  • Channa dal – 1 TBSP
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 TBSP
  • Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
  • Red chillies – 3 to 4 (adjust spice)
  • Methi seeds – 1/2 tsp

(* If using tomatoes, onions and garlic for sambhar, saute and add before adding pumpkin. Also, you may saute shallots and grind them with the above spice masala)


  • Oil – 1 TBSP 
  • Curry leaves – few
  • Asafoetida – a generous pinch (omit if GF dish is preferred)
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp



  1. Soak dal in warm water and pressure cook with turmeric and a drop of oil till soft and mushy. Keep aside. Similarly chop and pressure cook red pumpkin / kaddu till soft (1 whistle) and keep aside. 
  2. Meanwhile Soak tamarind in 1 cup of water for 15 mins and extract the thick juice. 
  3. In a pan, add 2 TBSP oil and fry the ingredients under “To grind” till golden brown, powder in a spice grinder till smooth.
  4. In a pan, add the tamarind paste, 2 cups of water, mashed dal and cooked pumpkin and let it come to a rolling boil. Mash the pumpkin with the back of a spoon till soft. 
  5. Now add salt, ground spice powder and let it get thickish. Check for salt and spice. Add jaggery if using. 
  6. Prepare tempering with the tempering ingredients. Pour on sambhar and finish with chopped coriander leaves. 
  7. Serve hot with any South Indian Breakfast


Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 63


   An InLinkz Link-up




  1. Yummy yummy super write up. I love any and every sambar. I loved your story on sambhaji which I was unaware of.
    I make it very similar to your recipe but I add onion and garlic.

  2. MySpicyKitchen

    Drooling over sambhar and idli in the background.

  3. Nice reading about the stories behind the sambar…and the sambar looks so good..

  4. Suma Gandlur

    Interesting anecdote about the origins of sambhar but that last tidbit about serving order in Karnataka is wrong, right?
    Yummy combo of idli sambhar there. It was our breakfast yesterday. 🙂 Glad to see the toor dal version over the moong dal one which seems to be the norm in Tamil blogs.

  5. vaishali sabnani

    This is one super delicious breakfast..the sambar looks fantastic with those spongy idlis in the background. The whole set up looks tempting.

  6. The Pumpkin Farm

    i loved the way you have served it..even i have used this anecdote when i posted sambhar as even i was fascinated by it

  7. Amara’s cooking

    Yummy sambhar and idli, what a delicious and classic combo:)

  8. Sandhya Ramakrishnan

    Lovely reading about the origin of sambhar! I like the addition of onions and tomatoes as that is how I have eaten it in hotels. Wonderful recipe Kalyani!

  9. Once someone told me my sambar tastes like hotel sambar and I thought it was an insult :D. Now I know better :D.. For all kind of sambars, I now prefer using moong dal over toor dal.

  10. What a delicious sambar. Bookmarked to try soon.

  11. cookingwithsapana

    Hotel style sambhar looks delicious Kalyani.Love the second image.

  12. Gayathri Kumar

    That is a nice story on Sambar. Any how,as for us Tamilians, there is no festival without sambar. Your tiffin sambar looks yum..

  13. Wow noice story and sambar looks so delicious, mouthwatering here…..

  14. Delicious.. Loved the sambar intro and the history. Superb

  15. Priya Suresh

    Can have two more idlies with this fingerlicking sambhar, mouthwatering here.

  16. Priya Suresh

    Slurp Slurp, can have two more idlis with this fingerlicking sambar.

  17. Smruti Ashar

    Loved the sambar and the idlis in the background looks so inviting. Lovely share!

  18. Ever green sambar. Love the write up.

  19. Chef Mireille

    interesting to learn about history of the sambhar

  20. I tried this out Kal and it was awesome. The clicks are great!

  21. lovely sambar and the idlies also look very soft

Thanks so much for dropping by.
We would love to hear how you liked this recipe.
Do take a moment to rate this recipe and leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *