Thakkali Paruppu Rasam – Tomato Lentil Rasam: A Sth Indian Beauty (A spicy tomato based broth)

90th Birthday

Here we go again, trying to describe Indian food in Western terms. Rasam isnt really a soup, but it would be the closest term that we have to describe it. It is a spicy “soupy” “drink” that is often eaten or drunk as part of a meal in Sth India, particularly Tamil Nadu. I guess you could call it a broth. That would be close. Served in a metal cup, it can be sipped from that cup, or poured over rice or other parts of the meal. It is truly a delicious and very versatile part of an Indian meal.

Rasams may or may not involve lentils. The most simplest rasams are water, chillies and spices, perhaps some tamarind. I love to make them from the top water when I am cooking lentils for a dal – ie remove the water on top of the lentils when they have cooked, before you turn the lentils into a dal. Use that wonderfully flavoured water to make a rasam.

At the opposite end of the scale are rasams that are based on lentils. Today’s recipe is one such recipe, made with red gram dal.It is quite different to this Tomato Rasam which I first made some years ago.


I do love this rasam, and consumed 2 cups of it this sort of mid-to-late-winter spring-like day.

On cooking toor dal

Just a note on toor dal. Sometimes it will cook in 1/2 hour to a nice mushy stage, and sometimes it takes 2 hours. Although recipes say to cook the dal with turmeric, I believe that this lengthens the cooking time, and so I always add turmeric later.

So as red gram dal (toor dal) can take ages to cook, this one is a Sunday afternoon affair, unless you have a pressure cooker.


Tomato Lentil Rasam (Thakkali Paruppu Rasam)

Source : adapted from Samayal by Viji Varadarajan
Cuisine: South Indian, Tamil
Prep timeup to 2 hours to cook the dal, but can take less time. Pressure cookers help.
Cooking time: about 30 mins to cook the rest
Serves: 4 people depending how you are using it. It makes about 3 cups.

1/4 cup red gram dal (toor dal/pigeon peas)
1 Tblspn thick tamarind pulp
2 large tomatoes, about 150g (or if you have previously juiced tomatoes and put the juice in the freezer, this could be a time to use the juice)
1 tspn sambar or rasam powder
pinch asafoetida
2 dried red chillies, pinched
1 – 2 sprigs of curry leaves
1/2 tspn salt
coriander leaves for garnishing

1/2 tspn black mustard seeds
1  tspn ghee or Indian sesame oil

Cook the lentils, adding more water to them as necessary, until they are mushy. Towards the end of the cooking, once they are soft and heading to the mushy stage, add the turmeric.

In another saucepan, add the tamarind pulp with 1.5 cups water, a whole tomato (chopped), the sambar or rasam powder, half of the curry leaves and the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7 minutes.

Now mash the tomatoes using an immersion blender or masher. Add the cooked, mushy lentils with another 1 cup of water and continue to simmer for 4 or 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, pop the mustard seeds, add the curry leaves and red dried chillies, and after a few moments, add those spices to the rasam. Now add the second tomato, chopped, to the rasam and simmer over a low flame until the rasam froths, about 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve and enjoy!

Rasam and Dal Soups Series

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About Ganga108

Heat in the Kitchen, Cooking with Spirit. Temple junkie, temple builder, temple cleaner. Lover of life, people, cultures, travel. Champion of growth, change and awareness. Taker of photos. Passionate about family. Happy.
This entry was posted in 04 Mid Autumn, 07 Mid Winter, Indian, Lentils - Grains - Rice - Nuts, Rasam, Soups, Tomatoes, VEGETARIAN and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Thakkali Paruppu Rasam – Tomato Lentil Rasam: A Sth Indian Beauty (A spicy tomato based broth)

  1. Lovely dish and a great tip about the turmeric affecting the dal cooking time.

  2. lucy says:

    wonderful, ganga.

    love, especially, the idea of using the water left from cooking lentils. i’ve been draining that off and sipping it slowly for a little while now, but using it here is a much better use.

    have you noticed the days getting longer? make me very, very happy :-D

    • Ganga108 says:

      Hi Lucy, isnt that top water good? An old Indian trick. It makes the best stock or broth for any other soup.

      It is light in the mornings now, and lighter longer in the evenings. It always holds a scent of promise and great things.

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