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Sambar is NOT South Indian and You Should Thank the Marathas

Interestingly, it was also the Marathas whom introduced chilies to India, after being introduced to it by the Portuguese.

Shantanu David | News18.com

Updated:October 17, 2018, 12:37 PM IST
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Sambar is NOT South Indian and You Should Thank the Marathas
Interestingly, it was also the Marathas whom introduced chilies to India, after being introduced to it by the Portuguese.

After World Food Day, and the smorgasbord of stories (the new as well as the re-plugged) that catered to it, here’s some news you can actually use: Sambar, that mainstay of South Indian thalis, meals and homes, isn’t really South Indian. Here I shall pause for you to collect your breath and or to formulate your outrage.

Done? Let’s carry on then.

Chef Kunal Kapur, known to audiences from his various food-travel shows and judging stints on MasterChef India, has been currying favour around the country of late, and not for political office.

His new TV show, Curries of India on LF, is a gastronomic odyssey across the time and landscapes of India, tracing the fount and avatars of the curry, so ubiquitous to almost every Indian cuisine.

“Today, we cook Sambar with toor dal, and vaguely say that it’s a South Indian dish. There are some legends and stories about its origin, but the fact is that the first sambar was cooked during Maratha rule, and was named after Sambhaji, their leader, at a time when the Marathas were ruling over the Deccan,” says Kapur, casually blowing minds.

That’s right, Sambar was named after Sambhaji, son of Shivaji. Let’s pause again while you digest that.

And yes, there is written evidence of this, as Kapur can attest.

And while sambar today is usually cooked with toor or arhar dal, the first one was cooked with urad. As Kapur notes, “So always remember, when you’re eating sambar in a South Indian restaurant, you’re consuming a Marathi dish.”

Interestingly, it was also the Marathas whom introduced chilies to India, after being introduced to it by the Portuguese. Given the impact of that ingredient on “spicy” Indian food, we can safely say that there’s a touch of Marathi manoos in all of us. Jai Maharashtra?

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