Freshly ground sambar powder is the foundation of a superb sambar. This powder gets its warm nutty taste from the coriander seeds, its heat and red-orange vibrance from the dried whole kashmiri chilies, and its bitterness from the methi (fenugreek) seeds.
Adding the raw rice thickens any broth and turns it silky smooth. Once you understand what role each spice in this spice-blend brings, adjust the proportions and experiment to create your own Sambar powder.
Tips for Toasting Spices
For the sambar powder, it is important to toast the methi and cumin seeds in the second batch of spices to roast because they tend to roast much quicker than the other spices.
Using your sight and smell is very important when it comes to toasting your spices. This picture shows a comparison between un-toasted (left) and toasted (right) daal. Notice how the daal has deepened in color from a light yellow to deep brown. As the spices roast, you should start to smell a nutty toasty aroma.
As soon as your grind whole spices, their potency begins to decrease. This is why I like to make small batches of my sambar powder frequently to yield the best tasting final sambar. If you are looking for a sambar recipe to try out your freshly made sambar, checkout this butternut squash sambar recipe which balances the spicy sambar powder with the sweet and hearty notes of squash.