Piping hot rasam is part of some South Indian meals.
The tangy-spicy soup-like concoction might be one segment in a three-course meal that starts with rice and sambar, followed by rasam and concludes with a sweet/yoghurt course with moru or thairu or curd and payasam.
Rasam is my Amma's go-to solution for all ailments, be they a cold, cough, fever or a headache.
From pepper rasam and garlic rasam to lemon rasam and tomato rasam or even, for non-vegetarians, bone rasam, different avatars of the traditional recipe are cooked in South Indian homes.
If you don't like it too watery, go ahead and add a portion of cooked dal to turn it into a thicker adaptation that can be served with rice, dosas and idlis.
Incidentally, the British Mulligatawny Soup got its origins from South India -- the word mulligatawny is derived from milagu, Tamil for pepper and tanni or water in Tamil.
My recipe for Tomato Rasam is a take off from Amma's rasam, which she serves at least once a week.
Divya's Tomato Rasam
For the rasam powder
- 1 tbsp jeera or cumin
- 1 tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp dhania or coriander seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
For the rasam
- 2 ripe red tomatoes, preferably tangy ones
- 1 tsp tamarind soaked in water
- 4-5 garlic pods
- 4-5 curry leaves
- 1 bedgi or red chilly, torn open
- 1 tsp rai or mustard seeds
- Pinch hing or asafoetida
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh green dhania or coriander or cilantro leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup toor dal, soaked, optional
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
To make the rasam powder
- In a thick-bottomed frying pan or tava over medium heat, dry roast the jeera, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and peppercorns.
Take off heat and transfer into a blender jar and grind to a fine powder.
Keep the rasam powder aside.
To make the rasam
- If using dal, after it has soaked for 20 minutes, boil in a pressure cooker with 1½ cups water and a pinch of salt for upto 4-5 whistles.
Keep aside and when it cools open the cooker.
- In a saucepan heat two cups of water.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
When the skin of the tomatoes start to split, take off heat and cover so steam doesn't escape.
Let the tomatoes remain in the hot water a few minutes and then drain.
Using your fingers, mash the tomatoes, with the skin, while still warm.
If you prefer the tomato to be a smooth puree in your rasam, grind in a mixer.
- Crush the garlic using a mortar and pestle.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the torn red chilly and curry leaves.
Then add the crushed garlic, tomato puree, turmeric powder, rasam powder and salt.
Give it a stir and add 1½ cup of water.
When it comes to a boil, add the strained tamarind water (without seeds).
Check the consistency and add more water if required.
If you prefer a thicker rasam, add the boiled dal now and mix well and let the rasam continue to simmer over medium heat.
When frothy bubbles begin to appear, take off heat.
Add the chopped coriander and cover and serve with steamed rice or idlis or wadas.
Divya's Notes: The secret to a good rasam is to not boil it too much.
If the rasam has turned out too spicy, add 1 tsp jaggery.
The rasam powder can be made up in bulk and stored for a few weeks in an air-tight container or longer in the freezer in a labelled ziplock bag.
For Jain rasam, omit the garlic.
Rasam can be paired with fried fish, rice, tender mango picke, appalam (papad) for a wonderful Sunday meal. Try Chef Manish Kusumwal's recipe for Kerala-style Fried Anchovies.