We struggle 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 as part of a meal in Sth India, particularly Tamil Nadu.”Broth” is a good term. 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 to moisten drier curries. 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.
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Cooking Toor Dal
Sometimes Toor Dal 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 salt and turmeric later.
Tomato Lentil Rasam | Thakkali Paruppu Rasam
Source : adapted from Samayal by Viji Varadarajan
Cuisine: South Indian, Tamil
Prep time: up 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
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!