Kohlrabi is a misunderstood vegetable I think. It looks somewhat like a martian and I hear a lot of groaning when it appears at the farm share. I have consumed quite a bit of kohlabri in my day because it’s one of my mother’s favorite vegetables. My mother grew up eating it in Bangalore, many times cooked in sambar, a spicy lentil stew. These kohlrabi that I got were kind of small so I used them all up in the sambar.
Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family so it has some similarities in flavor, but when cooked in this stew, the pieces become watery and almost melt in your mouth. One thing about kohlrabi is that you have to make sure to peel the outer-skin off completely because it is tough and fibrous (trust me because I have made this mistake!). You can also cook the leaves, which kind of remind me of collards a bit.
In an attempt to finish off a leftover red onion, I added it to my sambar too but later when talking with my mom she told me that putting onion and kohlrabi together is like sacrilege. I guess cabbagey vegetables and onions are not to be mixed traditionally so feel free to omit (even though I know onion fried in butter is hard to say no to;)
I’ve shared this recipe for sambar before but made with potato and carrot. It’s very versatile so use it not only to cook your kohlrabi but many other vegetables like spinach, squash, string beans, cabbage, eggplant, etc.
1 large or 4 small kohlrabi, skin removed and chopped into cubes (~1 cup), leaves chopped
1 cup masoor dal (red lentil)
6 cups water
2 tablespoons sambar powder (MTR brand is good if you don’t have homemade)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons frozen fresh coconut (optional)
salt to taste
For tempering oil:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
pinch of asafetida or hing
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 fresh curry leaves (fresh or dried)
1 dried red chili (broken into pieces by hand)
1/2 red onion
Wash masoor dal until water is clear, drain and set aside.
Add drained lentil and 6 cups of water to pot. Bring to a boil under medium/high heat and then leave at medium heat. Ladle out any foam that comes to the surface. Once foam stops, add turmeric and kohlrabi pieces and mix up. The dal and vegetables take about 30 minutes to cook. The lentils should be fallen apart and the kohlrabi should be soft. At this point, add in the kohlrabi leaves.
Add sambar powder and mix well. Simmer for 5 minutes. Should get a golden-like residue forming on the surface. Add salt to your taste, tamarind and coconut and mix well. Make sure the tamarind is completely dissolved. You can also at this time, add more water depending on your preference of thickness. Cook for a few more minutes. Turn off heat.
In a separate small pan, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil and put in asafetida and black mustard seeds. Wait for the seeds to pop a bit. To help this happen, you can put a lid over the pan. Once its popped for a few seconds, turn the heat down a little and put the curry leaves and broken up chilis. Coat the leaves and chili with the oil and fry for a few seconds. Add in the chopped onions and fry for 10 minutes on low heat. The onions should be translucent and give off a nice fragrance. Pour this mixture over the lentils and vegetables and mix well.
You can serve with rice and some yogurt on the side.
*Sambar powder is made from: