Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Rasam (Spicy Tamarind soup)

The general tendency of Indians is to spice up almost all food. Their British counterparts do the same, but in the reverse direction. The result - the world is rewarded with three dishes chicken tikka masala, kedgeree and mulligatawny soup. Rasam is the origin for mulligatawny soup meaning milagu thanni (pepper water). Probably Rasam is one of the few dishes that are reminiscence of an old cuisine that managed to retain its originality even after the deadly chillies were unleashed from South America. In the part of the world where I come from, a cook is judged by the quality of rasam they whip up. Unfortunately for me my dad never liked rasam and so my mother made it occasionally. I think a balance has been reached, when I married S who can make fantastic rasam. I never cook rasam as S makes the best rasam. Every guest who comes home for a meal unfailingly has a second helping of rasam rice.

This is a special recipe because there is no powder involved and all the ingredients are assembled from scratch. Here is how he makes it. This recipe makes about 3 liters of Rasam. S doesn’t believe in small quantities!

  • Tamarind – 1 lime size ball
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Tomato – ½
  • Salt
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Corriander leaves – to garnish

To grind

  • Garlic – 1 whole pod
  • Cumin seeds – 3 Tbsp
  • Curry Leaves – 1 twig
  • Red chillies – 4
  • Pepper corns – ½ spoon

Grind the ingredients under ‘To Grind’ in a blender. Extract juice from the tamarind and squeeze the half cut tomato into the tamarind juice and add in the tomato pulp also in the juice. To this add the turmeric powder, asafetida and the ground paste. Add salt and taste it. You can adjust for seasoning at this stage. S feels it is very important to taste it at this stage. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. After they pop add the tamarind water mixture. Another thumb rule is to always add the water to the tempering of mustard seeds and oil, never the opposite. It makes a difference to the end result. The last bit is never to let the rasam boil. When it just starts boiling, take it off the flame and garnish with coriander leaves. This is a bit garlicy in taste. You have to taste it to appreciate the flavours of rasam.


If you want to make parupu rasam, then add some mashed paruppu and the water that it was cooked in.

To make it a tomato rasam, squeeze 1 more tomato and add the pulp.

To make it a pepper rasam, reduce the red chillies and add more pepper corns.


mummyjaan said...

Looks yummy. Do you serve it with only rice, or do you have other curries or chutneys to go with it as well?

Devi said...

Thanks mummyjaan for dropping by. :)
Tradionally Rasam is served with Rice – Rasam rice and papadam are considered as an ideal marriage. Pickles and vegetable/chicken curries go well with rasam rice too. It can be had as a soup on its own, esp good when one has a cold. Hope you enjoy it.

Rekha said...

hi devi,

Tried the rasam , it came out really good and it was really quick to prepare. Just the kind of recipe for lazy cooks like me.Thanks for the tip for extracting tamarind juice never thought it was this simple....will try ur other recipes as well , looks very appealing......

Devi said...

Thanks for dropping by Lakshmi. Glad you enjoyed the recipe :)

anise said...

Hi Devi,

Simple question about your tasty Rasam here. I'm just learning to cook with tamarind and am quite the novice at Indian foods, but Love it from my travels abroad.

For this Rasam recipe, it says it makes about 3 litres, but there isn't a quantity of water actually listed in the recipe. exemplifies my notice'ness :-)

How much water do you add, and do you add the plain water after the tamarind water...which is after the mustard seeds...or?

Is there benefit to letting it cook for a while to better marry the flavours, but still avoiding letting it get to the boiling stage?

Thanks so much,

-in an unusually snowy Vancouver, Canada. Great day for cooking!

anise said...

Ok, I'm back again with a hopefuly figured-out answer to my recently posted question. Since it seems you don't cook it very long, do you initally soak the lime-sized ball of tamarind in 3L of water, and that's the water used in the recipe?

Thx for indulging me in my lack of experience in cooking your ever-so-delicious genre of culinary cuisine :-)

anise said...

Last question...honest!

Do you not use the tamarind paste that can be sieved~ out after soaking the tamarind? Or, is it purely just the juice that is used...and the paste if squished out the ball is used for another tamarind dish - ?

Devi said...

Hi Sandy,
Thanks for dropping by. The best way to extract tamarind juice/pulp is to take the tamarind in a bowl and cover with water(may be half a cup) and microwave high for 2 minutes. Heating the tamarind will relax it and make it easier to work with. Then pour cold water into it. This is to make sure that the tamarind is not hot. Squeeze the tamarind with your hands (if you feel the tamarind is still hot, add some more cold water). The resulting water will be brown. Now that the tamarind is squeezed out of all its goodness we can filter it off and retain only the water. I generally use my hands to filter the squeezed tamarind. But you can use a tea filter to remove the tamarind bits. The resulting water is what we call the tamarind juice. Taste the tamarind juice, it will be really tangy. Dilute it with water. The quantity of water depends on your taste buds (its something like using chillies). My suggestion would be to dilute the tamarind juice with 1 cup of water and add the rest of the ingredients as per the recipe (including salt) and then taste it. If you think it is tangy add more water to it. The sweet sourness of tamarind will be balanced by the hot peppers/chillies and the salt.
All the 3 lts of water does not come from the tamarind water alone. Some of it comes from the ground paste (after adding the ground contents into the tamarind water, I tend to pour some water into the jar to get all the tiny bits and add this water into the rasam as well).
Tamarind is a natural preservative and the rasam will keep well for 3 days in cold climates.
The flavours all come together and are balanced out and hence they need not be boiled. Boiling rasam will change their flavour. I hope this helps. If you have more queries pls let me know. And do share how the recipe turned out. Merry Christmas !!!!


Karthik said...

Hi Devi,
Your recipes are really good. The rasam and okra curry go together so well.
Your cooking tips are very helpful and make a difference to the recipes. Thanks.


Good Gynecologist in Chennai said...

I made this rasam yesterday - delicious and so so easy. I will try it with potato fry the next time.

Brian Especkerman said...

Thank you for the recipe... My wife normally cooks all the Indian dishes... However since she had taken ill, I decided to do a rasam & rice dish to help improve her appetite ... It was spmple to do & fast too... Turned out great... Didn't have tomatoes on me & so it was only tamarind juice... Great recipe... Cheers.