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Moolangi sambhar or A thick lentil-based Daikon/Radish soup

I will use these terms interchangeably in this post – moolangi, mooli, daikon, radish.  Moolangi or daikon ( is a long, white, carrot like vegetable and brings back many childhood memories. As a child, I absolutely hated it. Not because it tasted bad, but every time mum cooked it, the house smelt like half a dozen cows were simultaneously having tummy problems. Mum would make moolangi rotis using grated daikon but the first step to that was squeezing out all the liquid from the grated daikon. The juice was particularly pungent and I would avoid loitering around the kitchen whenever moolangi was on the menu. As I said before, the smell was the main deterrent but the taste of the soft rotis and the mollangi sambhar that mum made was always very good.

As a mature adult (ahem), when mum or I cook moolangi now, I don’t go around with my fingers pinching my nose any more. Having lived away from home for so long, I crave moolangi sambhar every now and then. I happened to spot daikon in our local supermarket one evening and got very very excited. This recipe is a result of my excitement.

If you are wondering what “sambhar” is, it is a thick, tangy, lentil-based soup. Like a lot of South Indian dishes, the centre piece of sambhar is the spice mix or sambhar powder. Unlike its South Indian companion Rasam, sambhar does not contain any tomatoes but often contains various vegetables including moolangi.

Moolangi sambhar with rice and poppadum


For the sambhar powder

((This makes enough for several batches of sambhar and can be stored in an air-tight container for several months. Always use a dry spoon to handle sambhar powder. Alternatively, substitute cups for tablespoons and you will have enough powder for a couple of rounds of sambhar )

2 cups of coriander seeds (Look for dhania in Indian stores)

2 cups of dried red chillies (Mum uses 1 cup of Kashmiri chillies which are not spicy but add rednesss to the mix and 1 cup of spicy chillies) – change to 1 cup of chillies if you don’t like it too spicy

¼ cup of fenugreek seeds (Look for menthya/methi in Indian stores)

2 sticks of cinnamon bark

1 cup channa dal (split chick peas)

¼ cup urid dal  (split beluga lentils)

For the sambhar

1 large moolangi/daikon diced (picture 2) and steamed until soft

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 cup of toor dal (yellow split peas), cooked to a mush

1 and 1/2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

2 heaped teaspoons of sambhar powder

salt to suit your taste

2 and 1/2 cups of water

For the tempering

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 dry red chillies, broken in half

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon urid dal

1/2 teaspoon channa dal

2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves


1. For the sambhar powder, dry roast (roast without oil) each of the ingredients separately. Let them cool and then grind them together to make a coarse powder.

2. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot and add all the tempering ingredients into the pot.

3. When the mustard seeds start to crackle and jump out of the pot, add the onions. Make sure the urid dal and channa dal don’t turn black in the tempering.

4. When the onions turn translucent, add the sambhar powder, salt, tamarind and water and mix well.

5. Add the cooked toor dal and moolangi to the pot and mix well.

6. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the top of the sambhar is covered in little yellow bubbles and threatens to overflow, turn the heat off. Sambhar, if left to cool, can form a skin on top. In this case, just mix well before you serve.

7. Most of the nutrition in the sambhar comes from the toor dal and the vegetables so mix well before your serve.

8. Pour a couple of generous scoops of sambhar over hot rice to serve. Crisp poppadums, bhujia mix/Bombay mix or potato crisps add crunch to the otherwise soft sambhar and rice.


1. You can swap daikon for vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, carrots,  beans, okra and cabbage. If using eggplant or okra, shallow fry the vegetables until crisp and add them as the sambhar is bubbling so that the vegetables don’t disintegrate. With potatoes, carrots, beans and cabbage, steam or boil them before adding them to the sambhar. Otherwise, you will be waiting a while for them to cook.

2. White pumpkin and peanuts with skins on also make a good combination in place of daikon and onions. Make sure both pumpkin and peanuts are cooked prior to adding to the sambhar.

3. Sambhar goes very nicely with South Indian pancakes called “dosas” ( and steamed rice cakes called “idlis” (

4. I cooked my mooli and dal in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, cook the mooli in a separate pot to the dal as dal will take longer to soften and you don’t want to turn the daikon to a mushy paste.


dhaniya  = The+knee+yah

dosa = Though+sah

idli = “Id” as in bid + lee

menthya = Menth as in menthol + yah

methi = May+thi as in thimble

moolangi = Moo (the sound a cow makes) + lung + ee

mooli = Moo (the sound a cow makes) + lee

sambhar = sa as in supple + mm + bar

Moolangi sambhar
1. Daikon/Radish/Moolangi/Mooli 2. Chopped daikon 3. Pressure cook the radish and toor dal 4. Tempering for sambhar/huli 5. Add the onions to the tempering 6. Add the cooked radish and dal to the onions and tempering 7. Add tamarind, sambhar powder, salt, water and bring to a boil.

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