Tiffin Sambar – Saravana Bhavan Mini idli style

I am a huge fan of Saravana Bhavan’s mini idlis as are everyone in my family. This is such a delightfully tasty, absolutely lip-smacking tiffen – fluffy white mini idlis dunked in hot flavour bursting sambar, drizzled with ghee. Perfect! Unlike the sambar we make at home, this tiffen sambar is not tangy, is thick and full bodied and has mild sweet undertones. Tiffen sambar is the best accompaniment for idli, dosai or pongal. I have to thank Mythreyi of Myerecipecorner. I picked up this recipe from her blog. Her blog has so many amazing recipes, you’ll have to check it out. It is true to its name and tastes just like the hotel tiffen sambar (though not exactly like Rathna Café Sambar which tastes different from all other hotel sambars). I followed her recipe as is and it turned out great. Everybody in the family agreed that it tasted just like hotel tiffen sambar.

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Every week we cycle through various chutneys, kormas, sundakkai sojji and sometimes vadakari for the idli/dosai that we make every day. We try to underplay the idli/dosai monotony by changing up the side dishes. This tiffen sambar was a refreshing change and I’d strongly recommend anyone stumped for a side-dish to try it out. I cut up regular sized idlis and dunked them in sambar. You could serve it on the side as well.

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Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Serves: 5-6


Toor dal – 1 cup
Sambar onions/Shallots – 15 peeled and halved
Tomato – 1 chopped
Carrot – 1 chopped
Drumstick – 1
Curry leaves – 1 stems
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Jaggery powdered – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves – a handful for garnishing
Oil – 1 tbsp

Masala Paste

Coriander seeds – 3 tbsp
Bengal gram/kadala paruppu – 2 tbsp
Whole dry red chillies – 12
Cumin – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek/Methi seeds – 1 tsp
Grated coconut – 1/2 a coconut


1.      Pressure cook the toor dal till soft. Mash well and set aside.

2.      Dry roast all the ingredients under “Masala paste” except grated coconut till fragrant and the Bengal gram starts colouring. Grind the roasted ingredients along with coconut and a  water to a thick, nearly smooth paste.

3.      In a vessel/kadai, add oil and when hot, drop in the mustard seeds. When they splutter, throw in the sambar onions and curry leaves and fry till the onions turn translucent.

4.     Add the tomatoes and fry for a few minutes till soft. Add the vegetables, salt and turmeric powder, mix well and cook covered for 5-10 minutes till the vegetables are tender.

5.     Add the ground masala, stir around and let cook for 3-4 minutes.

6.     Tip in the cooked toor dal and stir well. Let the sambar simmer for 3-4 minutes and switch off when it is about to boil. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with idlis.


You could also easily use this sambar for making sambar vadai. Just soak the sambar vadai in the sambar for sometime and serve topped with finely chopped onions and coriander leaves.

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