Cook's Hideout: Saravana Bhavan Sambar

June 25, 2015

Saravana Bhavan Sambar

Blogging Marathon# 53: Week 4/ Day 2
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes -- Veena's Veg Nation
Dish: Saravana Bhavan Sambar
For the 2nd day of cooking from Veena's space, I made this perfect Saravana Bhavan sambar. Saravana bhavan is a popular restaurant in Chennai and this sambar replicates the one served there.
Saravan Bhavan Sambar
I've never been to this restaurant in India, but heard a lot about it. So we went to their Edison location in NJ, but lets just say the experience is nothing to talk about. The food was 'meh' and the service was 'blah' :-) But I want to visit the restaurant in Chennai some time. Hopefully that day will come sooner than later.

Saravan Bhavan Sambar
Coming to today's sambar, I made it on a weekend when my sister and her family were visiting us. I served it with rice and it was liked by both adults and kids. I loved the addition of ground masala with coriander and fenugreek seeds -- it adds a lot of flavor along with the sambar powder. Also the addition of fried gram dal or putnalu makes the sambar so creamy and delicious.

Recipe from Veena's recipe:
Toor dal - ¼cup
Moong dal - 1tbsp
Onion - 1 medium, cut into chunks or use 1 cup shallots
Tomato - 1 large, chopped
Tamarind pulp - 2~3tbsp
Turmeric - ¼tsp
Sambar powder - 1tsp (I use MTR sambar powder)
Mustard seeds - 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds - ¼tsp
Dry red chili - 2
Asafoetida - a pinch
Curry leaves - 8~10
Salt - to taste
Cilantro - 2tbsp, finely chopped

For the Masala Paste:
Coriander seeds - 1tbsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1tsp
Dry red chilies - 2
Fried gram dal/ Putnalu - 2tsp
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped

  • Make the Masala Paste: Heat 1tsp oil in a pan, add coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, dry red chilies and putnalu; fry till fragrant, about 3~5 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then grind to a paste along with tomato. Keep aside.
  • Cook toor dal and moong dal until soft and mudhy.
  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a sauce pan, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, dry red chilies and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to splutter, add the onions (or shallots) and cook till turn translucent, about 3~4 minutes.
  • Add chopped tomato and cook till it gets mushy.
  • Next add tamarind pulp and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Add turmeric, sambar powder, salt and bring the mixture to a boil again.
  • Now add the cooked dals and the ground masala paste, add water to get to desired consistency. Simmer for 4~5 minutes on low flame. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with idli or dosa or even rice.
Saravan Bhavan Sambar

Lets check out what my fellow marathoners have cooked today for BM# 53.


  1. Hi Pavani. I have been to Sarvana Bhavan in Delhi and then here in the UK. The Delhi was good but not the best I had had. Of course restaurants in South do a much better job becase of the fresh and local produce and experienced chefs. I wish they had a set of rules like McD's to be followed around the world.

    I never knew we can make Sambhar this way as well. roasting dal first and all, sounds really interesting. Pinned for my use dear :)

  2. Yea even though I have eaten many times in their chain of restaurants, I haven't particularly found their sambar to be that good..however many love maybe..:)..still some of their dishes are quite good..However your sambar bowl has me drooling ok..very nicely presented!

  3. Pavani during our BM meet we went to Sarvana Bhavan and I didnt find anything extraordinary. Infact on our trip to Pondi we enjoyed better S Indian food .
    This sambar looks very interesting and yummy , good one.

  4. I don't remember the taste of this sambhar at saravana bhavan as its been years since I ate there .. Bookmarking to try out ...

  5. wow..perfect sambar..I will surely try it this week..

  6. I have never been a Saravana bhavan fan, even in Chennai. But it just took me two months away from India and I literally pushed my husband to take me there. In Edison, I found that the food is inconsistent, sometimes good and sometimes-like you said- 'meh'. I guess the good days outnumber the bad days, else it would have been out of business long back!

  7. Sambar looks great Pavani, Love the Sarvana Bhavan sambar

  8. Mmm! Bookmarking this delicious sambhar.

  9. This brings back soooo many memories of chennai and saravana bhavan. I must have eaten in almost all their outlets there and still visit it every time I go to chennai. Will try this right away!

  10. I love to go to the Saravana Bhavan in Chennai for its atmosphere and not so much for food. When they opened the one in Edison, it was quite good and over a period of time, the quality just went downhill. It is really bad now and highly recommend people to stay away from it. This sambhar is just so delicious and I can have a couple more dosai or idli just because of this.

  11. This is very interesting way of making sambhar.Very nicely presented.

  12. I have not been to the branch they have here but your version looks thick and creamy, just the way I like it.

  13. Lipsmacking sambar... wish i get a bowl..

  14. Interesting version of sambar. I have heard various comments about Saravana Bhavan. Ate a few times in Salem and loved the food there.

  15. Interesting version of sambar.... Reminds me of the sambar idli served in saravana bhavan...


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