Rasam – I cannot say enough about this wonderful Tamil dish that wakens the digestive system and enlivens the palate. We have quite a number of different recipes. Today’s is one that includes some toor dal, is flavoured with tomato and uses lemon as its tart/sour flavour. It is similar to but much simpler than this Mysore Rasam. We use rasam powder today rather than make a fresh spice mix.
Rasam is a favourite of every South Indian, and different regions have slight variations on the dish – also sometimes different names for the dish (languages vary from state to state). In parts of Karnataka it is called Saaru, meaning essence. There are many recipes for Saaru from Karnataka. This tasty Udupi style Saaru is tasty and aromatic. Udupi is a coastal town in South West India in the state of Karnataka and has one of the major vegetarian cuisines of India.
We have lots of Rasam recipes, and a Saar from Goa for you to check out. See our Udupi dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Autumn recipes.
My thinking about broths or stocks for soups has changed over the years. Once I regularly made vegetable stock from off-cuts and peelings, supplemented by chopped vegetables to get the right balance. I made loads of light Asian style broths and more layered all-in stocks for soups, risottos, and the like. There were miso based stocks, SE Asian coconut-curried stocks and Indian flavoured stocks. Keeping them in the freezer meant that they were always at hand.
Don’t get me wrong, I still use these regularly, but more often I use a different technique.
A new approach
No matter what, vegetable stocks are still “light” when compared to the earthy groundedness and depth of flavour of non-vegetable stocks. So, after pondering this for some time, I began to make stocks that included such treasures as bay leaves (European, Indian and/or West Indian), juniper berries, brown cardamom pods, cumin seeds or powder, coriander seeds or powder, black peppercorns and allspice berries. What a difference these made.
Again over time – some years – miso began to make an appearance in my Continue reading “Indian Spicy Tomato Soup”
Tomato Rasam has to be one of the most loved Rasams of South India – it certainly is mine. We have a number of different recipes for Tomato Rasam, as well as variations on Lime Rasam, and today I am bringing you Meenakshi Ammal’s recipe. It is an interesting one, using lime juice as the souring agent instead of tamarind. There is no chilli in this recipe, rather black pepper is used to provide some heat. The top water of cooked lentils is also used for added flavour (and nutrition), akin to using stock in Western soups. It is a good practice, one I adopted years ago – when there is flavoursome water in which lentils have been cooked, make rasam. Or at least use in soups. I surprised a friend once – we were on holidays in Hawaii and had cooked some lentils for a lunch dish. I saved the water and whipped up a tasty rasam with some snacks for our afternoon tea. She adored it.
Back to our recipe today. This particular Tomato Rasam is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes. You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.
This recipe is the fourth in our series of Mysore style Rasam, and this one uses tomatoes and lime juice for the sour tang that is ubiquitous in South Indian food. We already have a couple of different Mysore Rasam recipes. The recipes that use lime juice for the souring agent, rather than tamarind, have a lightness of taste, different to the deep earthy flavours of tamarind.
The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes. You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.
Sometimes, particularly when cooking large batches of dishes, we skip corners and the steps that enhance the complexity and sophistication of the dish go by the wayside. And this is Ok – it still tastes jolly amazing.
This rasam is in that category. The recipe is for 2’ish cups (four small serves or 2 large ones), but it can be scaled up. This is the way that rasam is often cooked when 30 or so people need to be fed, and in our house, it might be made this way when it is 15 mins to dinner time and we just need to get it on the table.
Rasams, the ubiquitous Tamil dish, have traditionally played the role of stimulating the appetite, aiding digestion and balancing the body’s health with the spices used Not a pre-cursor to meals as in the Western sense, Rasams are drank with the rest of the meal, tipped over rice and/or used to moisten drier curries.
As the Indian cuisine globalises, some less spicy rasams are becoming more popular. These dishes can be eaten Western style (as soup), or in the traditional Indian style (with rice). They are not the Indian Soups in the true sense, they still sit squarely under the Rasam category, but perhaps are a little less spicy.
This Rasam is peppery, rather than chilli-hot. It is strongly tomato-flavoured, and is definitely a wonderful dish. Enjoy it by the small bowlful as a soup, or as a gentle rasam in the traditional way.
Ingredients from the freezer – Lunch is prepared in 15 minutes.
Every county has the concept of fusion cooking. Close to country borders, techniques, ingredients and dishes from neighbouring countries are adopted. Food fashion makes dishes from a different country popular and elements of their cuisine are adopted nationally. A great example is the initial influx of Chinese style food into Australia. No-one from China would have recognised the popular Chinese food – it was a fusion of Chinese techniques and tastes adapted for Australian preferences. The story repeats for the introduction of Italian, Greek, SE Asian, Vietnamese etc food, and the same process is repeated around the world. The food is always adapted for the strong preferences of the local population.
In this household we have tastebuds attuned at least a little to Italian, French and South East Asian flavours, not to mention the Australian preferences for flavour combinations. So sometimes I play with my beloved Indian flavours to create a dish close to but just not quite traditionally Indian.
Feel free to browse our Rasam recipes, or you might be interested in our Indian recipes. Our Indian Essentials are here. We have a number of tomato soups. Or get inspiration from our Late Summer dishes.
A oft-made rasam, the favourite rasam of many people.
Like a warming, comforting cup of spicy deliciousness, rasam is such special dish. It is no wonder it is a daily item in many Tamil households.
One of the most common rasams is tomato rasam. Full of spice, tangy from tamarind, and made with home grown organic tomatoes, it is not only delicious but healthy also.
We like to make rasams with the top water from cooking lentils – it adds flavour, uses the water that is usually drained off, and if some of the soft lentils actually get into the rasam, it just adds more flavour and a little texture.
I often keep home made tomato pulp and tomato juice in the freezer – even frozen whole tomatoes. These are perfect for making rasam.
Similar recipes include Pepper, Chilli and Cumin Seed Rasam.
You might also like to read The Difference between Sambar and Rasam.
Sometimes rasam is a complete meal.
Rasam is one of those amazing dishes, and I am unashamed to admit that I can have a large serving of rasam with a small salad for a light dinner. Last night I had a couple of bowls of rasam plus a perfectly ripe avocado, eaten in its skin, sprinkled only with some sea salt.
One can only imagine how rasam came into being. Someone scooping some of the cooking water off of lentils and throwing some spices in because they were hungry, or perhaps because they did not have anything else to eat. It is akin to someone in Europe taking a cup of stock from a simmering pot of vegetables, adding some spices and using it as a wonderful aperitif.
No matter how it began, or how its popularity spread, it is now a ubiquitous dish in South India with as many varieties as there are people in that part of India. It is eaten daily in many households.
That is not the case here, but I often get a real longing for a cup or bowl of this tangy broth that stimulates the appetite and can be drunk from a bowl or cup, or poured over rice. Such a longing came over me today, and I revisited this wonderful Thakkali Paruppu Rasam – Rasam made with tomatoes and lentils.
If you are looking for rasam recipes, you can browse them here. Are you looking for other rasam recipes? Explore them here. All of our Indian recipes are here and our Indian Essentials here. And find inspiration in our Late Summer recipes too.