We celebrate a plethora of festivals continuously between August & November every year. Every festival is celebrated distinctively in various regions across India. It is quite astonishing to find how the cuisine, culture, and customs vary from one region to other. Kosambari is a traditional lentil salad popular in South India (particularly in Andhra, Karnataka and some parts of Tamilnadu) with little variations. This salad is offered to deities in this festive season and also served to guests at the wedding banquets or festive gatherings.
Generally my mother or grandmothers prepare sundal, a similar traditional lentil salad, for every festival celebrated in our house. Nevertheless I had plenty of opportunities to relish this salad during my childhood days at my friend’s house. My friend’s grandmother was a kind but a stern woman performing all religious rituals in a finicky manner. She was so particular to offer kosambari to deities on every auspicious day in this season including Navarathri, and distributed it to all the kids in our neighborhood in thonnai (the eco-friendly use & throw bowls made of large leaves).
Sundal Vs Kosambari:
My grandparents preferred sundal made using cooked lentils or legumes. They felt sundal is easily digestible than kosambari made using uncooked Bengal gram. But it became one of the most favorite salads to me and my siblings albeit not favoured by the elders in our family.
Kosambari is a hearty salad that can be taken either as a meal or as a mid-morning/ evening snack. It is also a healthy salad with little or no carbs & fats, so people who are on weight loss diet would like to take this salad frequently. Some prefer to add soaked chickpeas (kadalai paruppu) or sprouted beans (mulaikattiya payaru) instead of moong dal, and also add juicy pomegranate arils, sweet beetroot, pungent radish, papery lettuce, crunchy baby corn, steamed red cabbage, etc. that aid in weight loss. Nonetheless I don’t prefer to add these ingredients in here as I feel they would alter the authentic flavor in it.
Now I have posted the recipe for traditional kosambari. Although the recipe is too simple to follow, we need to add all the ingredients at the right time to make this salad delicious, even the nicely crackled mustard seeds also enhance the flavor. Hence I recommend to stick to the recipe as below.
I feel we can adjust the ingredients according to the desired texture and flavor, so I did not mention the quantity of ingredients.
- Split green gram (paasi paruppu) – soaked for 2 hours and drained completely
- Grated coconut
- Minced ginger
- Finely chopped green chillies
- Fresh coriander leaves (finely chopped)
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- A teaspoon of coconut oil/ sesame oil
- A teaspoon of mustard seeds
- A few sprigs of curry leaves
- A generous pinch of asafoetida powder
- Grated carrot (almost equal amounts of lentils)
- Grated unripe mango (as needed)
- Finely chopped cucumber (equal amounts of lentils)
- A small amount of finely chopped capsicum (green, red, and/or yellow)
First we need to prepare the tempering, mix all the ingredients together and serve kosambari immediately. We can enjoy the delicious Kosambari even without adding the optional ingredients mentioned above. I like to add coconut and the vegetables generously, and I found that too many/little mustard seeds would also affect the flavour.
Tips & Tweaks:
- It is very important to soak the lentils for 2 hours, else we could notice the raw smell of lentils.
- If you like to add chopped onion & tomato into this salad, then there is no need to add coconut.
- Adding cooked ingredients like sweetcorn, cabbage, peas, peanuts, etc. into this salad would turn this dish into a mixture of sundal & kosambari.
- Instead we can simply make this salad with quite a few fresh vegetables like carrot kosambari, cucumber kosambari or carrot-cucumber kosambari as shown below.