Kosambri is a traditional South Indian salad that I love. Whenever I go to a South Indian restaurant I always scan the menu for it, but rarely does it ever appear. So if you want to try it you will most likely have to make the recipe or come to my house? I remember that this dish was made for special occasions and picnics, but when my mother figured out that I really liked it she would make it more often. She mixes all of the ingredients up with her hand and now so do I. I'm convinced it tastes better that way.
This salad has many variations, but most popularly it is made with grated carrot. Kosambri has such a unique, tangy flavor, which comes from the combination of coconut, lemon, chili and seeds fried in oil. You can also add soaked moong or chana dals to it. I forgot to soak the hard lentils the night before I made it for my friend's birthday picnic, but I will include the preparation with these dals in the recipe below.
This salad is so good for vegetarians not only because of the veggies, but because of the protein in the dals. I learned that the beta carotene in carrots is healthful in reducing the risk of cancer, but this recipe is actually doubly good because the nutrition in carrots is best absorbed when it is consumed with some oil. I had no idea how good kosambri was for me, but now I am really happy that I ate so much of it growing up. Thanks Mom and Aunties!
Kosambri (Carrot Salad)
1/8 cup yellow moong dal (optional) - soaked from night before
3 large carrots - shredded
1/2 cucumber - peeled, seeded, chopped small
little plum tomato chopped
1 shallot - chopped small
handful fresh coconut
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste (I find that putting a good amount brings out the flavor well)
1-2 green chilis chopped (optional if you like it hotter)
Vaggarne (Oil mixture)
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seed
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
3 fresh curry leaves (or dried curry leaves)
1 dried red chilis - broken in two
Wash dals until the water is clear and soak overnight. Drain dals next day and place in bowl with carrots, cucumber, tomato and shallot.
In a little pan, fry oil with mustard seed and hing. When the mustard seed starts to spurt, add fresh or dry curry leaves and dried red chili. Stir for few seconds until coated with oil.
Pour this oil mixture over ingredients in bowl and mix.
Add lemon, coconut, cilantro and salt and mix well. Taste and if you want more more spice, add some chopped green chili (I use the small green chilis you find in the Indian store).