Saaru (Karnataka version)

Saaru is the most common delicacy of Karnataka. Its nearest equivalent is the Rasam of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Although these two are considered somewhat similar, there are considerable differences, which makes them taste similar yet different!

The process of making saaru consists of two distinct phases.

  1. Making the powder (which is done once in several months)
  2. Making Saaru using this powder (which is a daily routine, simpler too)

Making the powder

Saarina pudi (the Saaru powder) has three separate groups of ingredients which are fried and powdered separately, later mixed together.

  1. Kothumbari beeja (dhaniya, coriander seeds) and red chilies in equal quantities by volume. Take 200 gms each of the two and fry them in a BaNale’ (kadayi, wok) with a few drops of oil. Use two long spoons at diagonally opposite ends, lift and drop the ingredients at regular intervals. Use both spoons/ladles to turn around the ingredients regularly. Use low fire and fry slowly until there is a distinct smell with the red chilies turn very shiny.  Stop just as it starts to smoke. Takeout and put in a plate for cooling.
  2. Two teaspoons each of Saasuve’ (mustard seeds, Kadagu), Menthya (methi seeds, Uluva), MeNasu (kura MoLagu, whole black pepper), Jeerige (Jeera, cumin seeds), Gasagase’ (Kuskus, white poppy seeds).  Fry these with a teaspoon of oil, on slow fire. Continue till the mustard seeds and Jeera start to split and turn brown.Take out and put in a plate for cooling.
  3. Two handfuls of Kari-bevina soppu (KariVepalai, curry leaves), one-two small pieces of Dalchinni chekke (pattai, cinnamon), a marble sized Hingu or half a teaspoonof its powder (Hing, Kayam, Asafetida) half teaspoon of Arishina (Manjal, haldi, turmeric powder). Wash and dry the Karibevina soppu and put it at the end; turn around for a minute or two and switch off. Put the Arishina after switching off and allow it to cool in the BaNale’ itself.

Using a dry grinder, powder ingredients of 1), then take out the powder. Powder the ingredients of 3) and then put the powder from 1). Turn in the grinder for a few minutes for them to mix.

Take out the ingredients. Powder the ingredients of 2), put the mixed powder from 3) and 1), continue to turn till the whole mixture mixes uniformly. The final powder will have a deep maroon (blackish brick red) colour and a fine flavour. Remember that in the first one-two days the hotness (khara, teekha, chili hot ) of the mixture is felt, but will mellow down
within a week. Therefore, wait before you make minor changes to the powder (adding fried red chilies to increase or add fried dhaniya seeds to decrease the “khara”).

The powder can be stored in a glass jar for about an year. With time the flavour reduces, so it is recommended normally for 6 month storage.

Making the Saaru

First boil 2-3 tablespoons of Togari BeLe’ (tovar daal, tora paripu, Tovar lentil) which is best done in a pressure cooker. In India, the best variety of Togari BeLe’ (Tovar dal) is grown in Amaravathi dist, Maharashtra. It can also be done quickly by adding more water and putting it in a rice cooker for 20-30 minutes.

After this is done, the BeLe’ (dal) is well cooked and can be mashed (some prefer it unmashed). Add 1/2 to 3/4 of salt (to taste), add 1-2 glasses of water and stir well. Add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of the Saarina pudi (powder). At this point, it is common to cut a tomato and add (though not essential). Allow it to boil on low fire for at least 10 minutes.

Take a small marble sized HuNise’ HaNNu (PuLi, tamarind) and soak it in water for 5-10 minutes. Then squeeze it well, take out the waste (pith) and pour in the brownish solution to saaru. Put in a whole stem (8-10 leaves) of fresh Karibena soppu (karivepalai, curry leaves).

For oggaraNe’ (tarka, phodni, bagaar) put a spoon of ghee into a steel soutu (ladle) heat on low fire, put in 1/2 teaspoon of mustard and wait till they split. Put in a pinch of Hing (kayam or asafetida) or one or two pieces of Garlic peeled. Put in the oggaraNe and also put in freshly chopped Kothumbari soppu (Kothumalli, Hara Dhaniya, green coriander leaves).

The Saaru is normally the first item to go with rice. The rice must be a little soft to mix well with Saaru. A spoon of Thuppa (ghee or melted butter) It is also common to drink the top watery part of Saaru (thiLi), with meals. Its fine flavour is enhanced if it is hot and just a drop of ghee is put in before drinking. A great favourite among children is Saaru-Anna
(Saaru+rice) which is mild yet quite nutrious due to the BeLe’ (daal, Lentil) which provides protein.

Instead of tomato, it is common to use finely cut onions. Also used are green beans (HuraLi Kaayi) broken into three-four pieces. However, quite a few KaLugalu (KaLdhanya, whole unbroken lentils) go well with saaru. The most common of these is Avare’ KaaLu (Lilva) which is a raging favourite in Karnataka (Jan-March is its season). Also HuruLi (horse gram which is a flat bean and is brick red in colour) goes well with saaru and is a great favourite in the rainy season.

Another popular item is soppina saaru (spinach saaru) which uses either menthyada soppu (green methi leaves) or some typical varieties of greens such as Dantina soppu, Honagone’soppu (sorry equivalents in other languages not known). Any vegetable or whole grain needs to be cooked in saaru before the tamarind water is put in. The acidic nature of tamarind slows down the cooking rate. Not many vegetables go well with Saaru, which on its own right is a very nice dish both as a soup and as something to go with rice. If only needed as a soup, there is no need to put Tuvar daal, simply cook a tomato and follow rest of the procedure (this is also called MoLag-TaNNi or in English “Mulaugtawni”).


Courtesy: K. Raghunandana

5 thoughts on “Saaru (Karnataka version)”

  1. Hi,

    I was thrilled with the Karnataka recipes that you have on your website. Can I borrow them and put them on my website. I have a website on Bangalore and would like my visitors to know about these yummy food items. I will acknowledge Raghunandan’s name in the each recipe.


  2. Thanks and Congrats! Raghuandan. You have explained so nicely. My Mom made some of the Saaru described here and it was really Yummy!.
    Request you to put the Receipe of Rasam too… so that the World know that Saar is Not Rasam. Now a days in Bangalore few resturants has catering Karnataka (Bangalore MySore Region) Food and the names in the menu too are Authentic.

    It’s people like you who can make these food popular by these kind of publication. Once again Thanks and Regards

  3. Dantina soppu is amaranthus greens – a sort of weed, actually. You can get dandelion greens from a farmers market and they work just as well.

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