Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar cover

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar


A thick and zesty south Indian black-eyed pea and tomato curry seasoned with an array of spices and flavored with sweet and sour tamarind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on 1 review

"I can't wait to try this recipe! Thanks!" 5 stars by

NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.

Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar

One doesn't have to be of Indian descent to enjoy Indian cooking and flavors.

In fact, although I was born and raised here in Ontario, Canada, it became my favorite cuisine by far to cook and eat only shortly after becoming vegetarian.

And considering India has a strong vegetarian culture, it seemed like a perfect fit, especially for someone who appreciated food with finesse.

I was amazed by the multitude of spices and styles and the vast array of not only mains, but appetizers, savory breads and desserts.

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar

Image by Lisa Turner

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar

The more I researched and experimented in my own kitchen, the more I was enchanted by the uniqueness and variety that characterize the different regions of Indian.

When you factor in the influences from other nearby cultures and the crossover between the regions within Indian itself, the magic that one can work in their own home kitchen is awe inspiring.

As a result of British interests and control of Indian, Indian food was eventually popularized in Britain. Immigration also resulted in the popularity of Indian cooking world wide.

The vast majority of offerings at Indian restaurants I have encountered on this side of the globe seem to be heavily influenced by North India creations, often with an Anglo-Indian twist.


But the availability of ingredients in the modern age make it possible for home cooks — or restaurants if they choose — to experiment with a variety of regional creations with attention to traditional preparations with or without a fusion twist.

Early on I became particularly smitten with South Indian dishes.

North Indian dishes tend to be less spicy, and the focus is more on dairy and such popular cheeses such as paneer and breads such as naan and roti.

Rice is a staple in both cuisines, but South Indian cooking gives rice a more primary role.

Dosa, a fermented crêpe with rice and lentils is a staple, and fried fritters such as vada and steamed savory cakes like idli are also signature.

Tamarind and coconut milk are often central to many of the dishes served and central to a traditional meal are soupy rasams and sambars which are a lentil and vegetable based thick soup-like course.

The sambar I feature here features earthy black-eyed peas rather than lentils, with tamarind for a sweet and sour element, a healthy dose of spices, including my homemade fragrant sambar powder, a bit of red pepper and some tomato for a bit of tanginess.

This might not be the most traditional of creations, but it surely went well with some steaming hot basmati rice.

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar


Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Sambar

A thick and zesty south Indian black-eyed pea and tomato curry seasoned with an array of spices and flavored with sweet and sour tamarind


1 cup dried black-eyed peas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)

1/4 cup tamarind pulp, soaked in 1 1/2 cups water for 1 hour

1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

2 dried whole red chilies, broken into bits

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon split urad dal

1/2 teaspoon asafetida

Ingredients (cont.)

small handful of dried curry leaves

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated

1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped

2 to 3 teaspoons sambar powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 large tomato, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons coconut or brown sugar

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Rinse the black-eyed peas and soak in several inches of water for 6 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse, then transfer to a medium saucepan and cover with fresh water.

Add a pinch of turmeric and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes or until the peas are tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in 1 1/2 cups of water for 40 to 60 minutes.

Drain the water in a bowl through a sieve, pressing as much water out of the pulp as possible. Discard the pulp and set aside the water.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, dried chilies, fenugreek seeds and urad dal. Stir and fry until the seeds darken a few shades and the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to pop.

Stir in the asafetida, and then immediately add the onion. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until it is translucent.

Add the ginger and fresh chili and continue to fry for another minute or so. Toss in the sambar powder, turmeric and cayenne if using, and stir for another minute.

Stir in the tomato, salt, sugar and red pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Add the tamarind water along with the black-eyed peas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes to blend the flavors.

Add more water as needed. Stir in the parsley and serve hot with rice and/or savory flat breads.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen

CC BY 2.5 CA