Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rasam - Spiced South Indian Broth

As the title goes, rasam is a spicy South Indian broth which takes its presence almost every day in a typical Tamil house. I know most of the south Indian readers would have by now moved to another page wondering who would even want a recipe for rasam (caught ya). In fact, there were so many questions in my mind before posting this recipe– ‘What if it is too basic for Indian readers? ‘, ‘What if it fails to get the attention of Non-Indian readers?’ etc.

 But then, I would not be doing justice to my childhood and my native cuisine if I write for a food blog and not do a post about ‘Rasam’. Also, there might be people who are new to cooking or to be more specific, south Indian cooking who could be benefited by it. That convinced me totally!
So for those of you, who don’t know what it is all about –

Rasam literally means ‘Juice’ in Tamil and pronounced as ‘ra-sam’. It is prepared with Tamarind extract as the base with addition of vegetables and other spices. There are so many variations to it of which this is the most basic. It can be served hot as a soup but in a traditional meal, it is enjoyed along with steamed rice. Oh yes, did I tell you it is a life savior when you have your flu. Trust me; it is hot, sour and just the ‘ticket’ your throat needs when all of your other ‘doses’ refuses to help.

If you are new to Indian cooking, do not get intimidated by the list - rasam is such a forgiving dish. Although you need to use all the ingredients to enjoy the complete taste of it, you can still have a sneaky taste of it with fewer ingredients. The ingredients marked with * are mandatory.
  • Rasam Powder* – This is the magic ingredient and if you have this ready, your rasam will be done in less than 15 minutes. Check our recipe for the powder here. You can prepare this in bulk and store as it has a long shelf period (by long, I mean months together). Homemade powder works best but I believe Indian grocery stores have started selling packed ones too.
  • Tamarind Pulp / Tamarind Extract* -available in Indian grocery stores
  • Tomato* – 1 chopped finely
  • Water* – 2 cups
  • Salt* – as needed
  • Asafoetida* – a pinch
  • Ghee/Oil*– 1 tsp – my personal preference is ghee as it imparts an unique taste to the rasam
  • Mustard seeds* – ½ tsp
  • Pigeon Peas/ Toor Dhal – ¼ cup
  • Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
  • Few curry leaves
  • Few cilantro leaves


       Add ½ tsp of tamarind extract to 2 cups of water and let the tamarind extract get dissolved in water for at least 10 minutes. (Lemon sized if it is tamarind pulp)


1.   Boil tamarind water along with the finely chopped tomatoes, asafoetida, turmeric powder, curry leaves and salt. Stir gently at regular intervals. The tomatoes should get soft and cooked.
2.   Add 1- 2 tsp of rasam powder and stir gently. Let it boil for couple of minutes. The rasam powder should get completely mixed leaving no lumps.
3.   Traditionally, about 1/4 cup of pigeon pea is pressure cooked for 15 minutes and added to the boiling rasam. It definitely enhances the taste. But I tend to skip this step often due to time constraint. So do not skip this step if you have the needed time. Well, you will be forgiven even if you don’t.
4.   You know you are done when you spot cute little bubbles rising in the corners. Turn off the stove. Rasam is almost ready now.
5.   Add ½ tsp of mustard seeds to 1 tsp of hot oil/ghee in another pan. Allow   the mustard seed to splutter and then transfer these to the rasam. Give it a quick stir.
6.     Serve hot as a soup or along with steamed white rice.

Give us a shout if you would like to know more about Indian spices – its benefits and the spices you would need to stock for basic Indian cooking. I know it is too many of them but we could try and help you give a start.

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