Veggie breakfast done right: Sambhar from Kerala, India

Veggie breakfast done right: Sambhar from Kerala, India

Food Facts

Where: Kerala, South India
Taste: less spicy than most Asian foods, with fresh and healthy vegetarian tastes
Ingredients: Lentils and seasonal veg
Serving Suggestion: Serve with rice or spongy rice dumplings

The food of South India non-greasy, and is a good deal less rich than northern dishes. Rice is the staple carbohydrate and accompanies every meal. Sambhar, lentil stew cooked with vegetables, is a breakfast favorite.

Origins and History

For thousands of years vegetarianism was practiced throughout India for reasons of health and hygiene. Although meat eating was introduced to other parts of the country by Western colonisers, South India is largely Hindu and vegetarianism remains central to Hindu thought and practice.

Every restaurant in South India has a place to wash your hands, and food is eaten with the right hand only. Indians equate eating a meal using cutlery with making love through an interpreter.

Serving Suggestion

Sambhar is a kind of dhal, or lentil stew. It is cooked with seasonal vegetables, most commonly aubergine, okra (‘ladies fingers’), spinach, peas, onion or potato – each of which gives the dish a distinctive flavour of its own. Breakfast sambhar usually has a higher liquid content than sambhar eaten at other times of the day.

Sambhar is usually accompanied by spongy rice dumplings called idli. The dumplings are dipped into the bowl and the sambha scooped out. A filling and nutritious start to the day.


The Food of India: Authentic Recipes from the Spicy Subcontinent – by Karen Anand (Editor), Jennifer Brennan (Editor), Wendy Hutton (Editor).

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