In sickness and health, I’m eating rasam. What Jewish friends growing up experienced with matzah ball soup I experienced with rasam — warmth, comfort, and fulfillment.
During a recent bout of flu and homesickness, I called my mom for specific instructions on making rasam. I went right to work in the kitchen, with hopes that I would make enough rasam for the week. I started on this expedition feeling like I was completely killing the game, providing for myself in a time of need. About 20 minutes into cooking, I triggered the fire alarm from overheating the mustard seeds, much to the frustration of my neighbors. Yikes – I guess I do still need my mom. I honestly think she started this blog as an answer to my cry (alarm) for help. It’s working!
It’s freezing in Chicago and I don’t own a heated blanket. I’m making rasam tonight in a huge vat and dunking my head in it. Have fun with this recipe and mind those mustard seeds!
Hey Cumin Beings, it’s Kalyani here. I’m excited to share my first recipe with you! A recipe that has defined comfort over many dinners in my childhood and that of my children. No matter the season, no matter the mood, nothing brings my family together like rasam.
For the uninitiated, rasam is a thin, watery broth infused with pepper and other spices, known for its therapeutic properties. It’s usually poured over rice and eaten with cooked vegetables; however, it is perfectly acceptable to eat like soup or drink in a cup. There are many variations and types of rasam, but this is my recipe for tomato rasam, which is basically the crown jewel of rasams and a staple of South Indian meals.
P.S. Need help deciphering any of the ingredients below? See my helpful post on Indian pantry items here. Questions? Contact me here, tweet me here, or find me on Facebook and Instagram. I’m reachable for all of your needs!
- Tur dal (split pigeon peas) - 3 tablespoons
- Tomato - 3 medium size
- Rasam Powder - 3 heaped tsp *
- Turmeric - ¼ tsp
- Asafoetida (or hing) - ¼ tsp
- Curry leaves - 8 to 10 leaves *
- Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
- Salt as needed
- Ghee - 2 tsp *
- Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
- Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
- Cilantro chopped - 1 tablespoon
- Soak tur dal in water for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Soaking speeds up the cooking process and also helps to cook the dal well to its desired smooth consistency. You may skip this step if you are in a time crunch. *
- Pressure cook dal with a pinch of turmeric for three whistles. You may have to cook the dal for 5 to 6 whistles if the dal has not been soaked. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook on the stove with water (this process is faster if you soak the dal overnight!)
- Mash the cooked dal in a blender and keep it aside.
- Chop the tomatoes and cook them in two cups of water until they get soft. Puree the tomatoes in a handheld or stand-alone blender. Transfer to a saucepan, and add salt, rasam powder and a pinch of turmeric to the tomatoes.
- Simmer on a low flame for roughly 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add asafoetida and half of the curry leaves. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Add the mashed dal and mix well.
- Add approximately 1½ to 2 cups of water, until you have the desired consistency. The rasam should be watery and thin. For the given measures, you should get 6 cups of rasam.
- Cook on a low flame. When the rasam begins to get frothy, turn the stove off. It is very important that you do not let rasam boil at this point.
- Add lemon juice.
- Prepare the seasoning. Heat ghee in a small fry pan. Add mustard seeds and close the pan with a lid. Turn the stove to low.
- The mustard seeds will start to splutter. Once the mustard seeds stop spluttering, add cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add the remaining curry leaves and turn off the heat. Pour the seasoning over the rasam.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Curry leaves are hard to find if you don't have access to an Indian food store. Don't fret - it is optional in this recipe. If you can find them, it will enhance the authenticity of rasam.
If you don’t have ghee, you can clarify butter instead. Melt ¼ tablespoon of butter on the stove until it becomes light golden. Use this instead of ghee in the above instructions.
Health benefits of soaking: According to ayurvedic medicine, soaking the dal removes most of the water soluble saponins and phytic acid and facilitates better absorption of protein.
Pureeing the tomatoes and dal is optional. If you are okay with chunks of tomatoes, skip blending them. You can mash the dal with a spoon.