Although it's similar to sambar in the sense that it has the same building blocks (dal, tamarind extract, and spices) to call it sambar rice, especially in front of a Kannadiga would be a grave insult, and will likely result in you never being invited again 🙂
Jokes aside, this dish is a favorite of my son, and he requests it every time he comes home. He likes mine, his aunt's, and a friend's version, and has told each of us that ours is the best!
As for vegetables, feel free to use any combination of vegetables you may have on hand. My most favorites are shallots and drumsticks (moringa stem, not the leaves), as they both impart a lovely flavor to the dish.
Kalpasi: This is a kind of fungi that's used in Chettinad cuisine, and in this dish, and I found it in Bangalore. It's not readily available in Indian stores in the US. I have also made it without this spice, but using it definitely adds a flavor dimension.
Another spice that I only found in Bangalore in any store, I love adding this to this as well as my vangibaath. But you can make it without it as well.
This is indeed a wholesome, (possibly) one-pot meal that incorporates all the food groups and is a crowd pleaser. Easily scalable (just increase everything proportionately using this as a base to serve 4-6 people), it's a great main dish for parties.
My recipe is a blend of tips and tricks I learned from my Kannadiga friends, my mom, and cousins. If you do make it, would love to see photos of it!