Rasam is a spicy lentil soup eaten with rice. It is thought to help with digestion and to treat colds and flus. It’s a go-to dish when funds are low. It can feed the whole family and can be eaten for several meals a day. The British call it Mulligatawny. The name comes from the Tamil words milagu, and tanni literally meaning “pepper-water.”
History of Rasam: The story goes that the King’s son had taken ill and would barely eat anything, so the King declared a prize for anyone who could come up with a dish that the son would eat. A chef in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, named Karuna is believed to have made Rasam for the son and it healed his illness! This is why Rasam is thought to be a healing dish to this day.
Ingredients you’ll need*:
- 2-3 dry Kashmiri or any dried red chilies
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 3 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 small diced tomato
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup dried lentils (toor dal)
- 1 key lime-sized ball of sour tamarind, soaked in water
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 pinch of hing or asafetida
- 4 sprigs of fresh cilantro
- Kosher or rock salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 sprig of curry leaves
- 2 dry red Kashmiri chilies, broken in half width-wise
- 1/2 teaspoon urad dal
- 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter)
*Visit your local Indian or South Asian grocer to find some of these specialty ingredients.
How to make:
- Soak dal (lentils) in 2 cups of water for at least 1 hour.
- Soak tamarind in warm water for at least 45 minutes
- Cook dal (lentils) with the turmeric, hing, and 2.5 cups of water. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Once the dal is done, blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a separate pan, dry roast the rasam seasoning ingredients on medium-low heat for no more than 2 minutes.
- Once roasted, add the rasam seasoning ingredients to a coffee or spice grinder. Grind them until fine.
- Heat olive oil on medium heat in a pan. Fry the cumin seeds for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Add garlic and tomato. Sauté for 2 minutes.
- Use your finger to crush the tamarind in the water it’s been soaking in to get as much tamarind juice out as possible.
- Pour tamarind juice through a fine mesh strainer into the pan with the cumin, garlic and tomato.
- Add in blended dal, salt, and freshly ground rasam seasoning.
- Let it all come to a boil. If needed, add water to get the consistency you want. Rasam should be a thin, watery, but deeply flavorful soup.
- In a small sauce pan, heat the ghee on medium heat.
- When hot, add in tempering spices. Lower the heat, and swirl the pan until you can smell the toasted spices, about 30 seconds.
- Add the ghee and tempering spices into the rasam.
- Turn off heat. Garnish with cilantro and freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt if needed.