Sambar, the cancer fighting South Indian Curry

 Oct 13,2018  Subbaram Viswanathan

Sambaar, also spelt as sambhar or sambaar, and pronounced ‘saambaar’, is a lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder, originating from india, cooked with a tamarind broth. It is popular in South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines

According to food historian K. T. Achaya, the earliest mention of sambar in literature can be dated to the 17th century.  According to a story, the dish was accidentally invented by the Maratha ruler Sambhaji, who added tamarind while making normal dal, when his head chef was away  It was found to be excellent and then it was named Sambhar after the great Maratha King Sambhaji.

Sambaar is mostly eaten with rice and also with variety of South Indian Snacks like idli, vada, dosa, etc.

 News on sambhar

Recently there is a news on this wonderful South Indian delicacy that it can prevent colon cancer. Sambar is not spicy, doesn’t affect the intestine lining and stops the development of carcinogen.  One of the famous newspaper, The Deccan Chronicle  of  13th August 2017, carried an article written by Indulekha Arakkal heading “Food Cure: How sambar  can prevent colon cancer”.


 It is mentioned in the article that it is the spices in the sambar that contributes to its effectiveness.  I am a great lover of Sambar and my mother is a great cook.  I drink sambar on daily basis and was very happy to hear this.  We also make the sambar in our restaurant in the same manner as made by my mother.


It is also mentioned in the article that piping hot sambar is often suggested as a home remedy for various ailments by our elders which is very true in our family.  Now it seems Manipal University research scholars have also proved this fact that this most popular south Indian curry is not only tasty but also has power to prevent colon cancer.


They say Sambar has anti-tumorigenic properties, that is, it counteracts the formation of tumours. Sambar masala consists of coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric rhizomes, black pepper, curry leaves, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Dr S.V.S.S. Prasad, an oncologist, says that if properly made, sambar is a very nutritious dish. He goes on to say that sambar prevents development of dimethylhydrazine, which is a factor of colon cancer.


Studies by experts indicate that Instances of colon cancer are higher in north India. Medical experts claim that this is because of the prevalent diet, which consists of more wheat and that leads to constipation. The diet followed in South India, of rice and curry (sambar), supposedly helps in bowel movement.


In our Seetharam Snack Center, we have purposely kept Sambar as an free unlimited item in the menu provided you come and eat in the restaurant.  This was how traditionally Sambar was served from ages.

Sunder V Iyer
13-Oct-2018 09:45 pm
Wow. Didn’t realise that the humble Smabar had such an accidental origin and such therapeutic value. For me it’s been a soul food. Super article. Do share more.

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