History of indian cooking (RE: Etymology: sambar, the dish?)

Srini Pichumani srini_pichumani at MENTORG.COM
Fri Jan 14 22:51:58 UTC 2000

Nikhil Rao wrote:

> I heard an interesting story I heard from Mr. Nagarajan, a retired IAS
> officer who comes from a family of smartha deshastha brahmins settled
> in Thanjavur and who runs a small math originally stablished by
> Samarth Ramadas in Thanjavur. According to him Sambar, was coined
> after the Maratha prince Sambhaji who invented(?) the dish from the
> tamil kuzhambu. May I dont remember the invented part correctly but
> his account did connect Sambar to Sambhaji!

I don't know the etymological origin of saambaar,  but it does seem to
have been used in the Tamil region only since Maratha times,  according
to a note that was published in a popular Tamil magazine a while ago.

In its usage as a general term in Tamil,  as in saambaar-rasam,  it has
increasingly replaced kuzhampu over the decades,  particularly in urban
areas.  But in many families,  saambaar is still restricted to the
sludge made with onions  ;-)  while kuzhampu is used for  similar
preparations with other vegetables.

That sambaar was originally a specific term seems to have merit,  since
once cannot imagine it replacing kuzhampu even now in a whole host of
dishes such as vattakkuzhampu (vaRRakkuzhampu to be precise),  milaku
kuzhampu,  mOr kuzhampu etc.  Maybe,  the amount of tamarind and curry
powder used in vattakkuzhampu etc was too much for the Marathi palate to
handle (?),  hence it was reduced and/or moderated by the use of tuvar
daal,  and onions with their acaTTu-tittippu (semi-sweet) quality...
whence sambaar !


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