For those who think that Indian food or any food cannot be tasty without oil-ghee, idli and sambar is a suitable answer. Similarly, this onion-garlic essential food is probably the most popular part of Indian vegetarian eating. Sambar is a popular dish of South Indian cuisine, but is it really South Indian cuisine? You would never have thought that Sambar should not be South Indian.
The story of its naming connects to Maharashtra. It was cooked in the 17th century in the kitchen of Thanjavur Maratha king, Shahuji. It is said about Shahuji that he used to cook very good food. King Shahuji wanted to prepare a feast for the distinguished guest in his court. Marathi was famous for being vegetarian, so Shahuji planned to serve the traditional Maratha dish, Amati (sour, thin lentils). Sambhaji loved to put Kokum in Amati for sourness, but there was no Kokum and moong dal in the kitchen that day. In such a situation, Sambhaji added tamarind toor dal on the advice of someone, after that what he made was quite tasty. Do you know who was the guest of honor? It was the Maratha king Sambhaji, son of Shivaji. Hence the newly created dish was named Sambhar in honor of the court guest and the Maratha king.
Tamil Nadu still differs on the origin of sambar by considering the traditional Kulambu as identical with sambar. Sambar has become a famous dish, which sometimes people confuse with Kulambu and Sambhar and both call the same word Sambhar. But there is a slight difference in the preparation and taste of these two.
There are about 100 types of Kulambu but there is only one type of Sambar. Where Kulambu can be prepared from various lentils but sambar is always prepared from tur dal. In the preparation of Kulambu, fresh paste of ingredients is always made but in Sambhar, a special Sambhar Podi (pre-prepared powder mix) is used. Kulambu is an individual preparation of each vegetable but sambar can contain a mixture of every vegetable.
In South India, most use of moong dal is found in the olden times. Whereas Tur was first around the Western Ghats i.e. Maharashtra and Goa. In the same way, the vegetables falling in it also changed from time to time. Tomatoes, red chillies, carrots and potatoes came with the Portuguese in India, and it took a long time to meet them in Sambar. Due to this, the use of these vegetables is avoided in the mines associated with the pooja and shraadh of the south.
Sambar is not special just because of its name. This dish, made without onion-garlic, contributes a lot of protein to the food. All the states of the south are different in themselves, so the sambar and the way of eating it are also different in all these states. Sambhar will be served first in Tamil Nadu followed by Rasam. This is exactly the opposite in Karnataka, Sambhar in Tamil Nadu has dry ground spices and wet in Karnataka. Sambhar is slightly sweet in Tulu areas of Karnataka itself. The raw banana and coconut give a different dimension to the Sambhar in Kerala. There are also different types of sambhar names in South India, Huli in Karnataka, Yuli in Kerala, Kodel in Tulu.