Operation Rasam

Mallika Basu - Operation Rasam

Posted 8th April 2008

The weekend finally arrived. As if by magic, so did a cold. Mother suggested honey and lemon, a good book and Bryonia 30.

I popped paracetamol, drank red wine and danced furiously to electro Tango. It was Friday night.

The limp home was just the beginning. By next morning, my nostrils flared to the size of accordians. The only sensation I had left was the buzzing in my ears from oversized speakers.

I needed a rescue operation that would charge through me, bringing a sense of purpose back to where the five senses one used to be.

I chose Rasam. This potent, spicy and sour soup is of South Indian origin but drunk widely across the country. People swear by its ability to cure even the most dastardly colds, by setting the taste buds alight.

The most basic Rasam is the one that uses just tamarind water. I opted for a more wholesome Tomato Rasam, the kind I drank in “South Indian” restaurants back home.

I felt better the minute the 10 dry whole red chillies started roasting expelling a sharp, pungent kick into the kitchen. By the time I got to the Rasam, I could actually taste and smell it! Thankfully, there’s enough powder left over for tonight’s hit.

If things go to plan, I’ll be fully recovered for this Friday’s festivities.

Feeds 4:

Quarter cup Toor lentils

1 medium tomato

1 inch ball of fresh tamarind (or 1 tbsp ready tamarind paste)

2 sprigs curry leaves

1 tsp mustard seeds

Sprinkle of asafoetida

1 tsp sunflower oil

Salt to taste

Rasam Powder

2 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

10 whole dry red chillies

5-6 black peppercorns

Preheat the grill to a high heat (200 degrees centigrade). In the meantime, wash the lentil thoroughly and roughly chop the tomato. Soak the fresh tamarind in four tbsp of hot water.

Put all the Rasam powder ingredients under the grill for about 10 seconds. Then powder in a coffee grinder or small food processor until fine.

Place the lentils, tomato and two heaped teaspoons of the powder in a large pot with four cups of water and bring to the boil. I used a pressure cooker for this (10 minutes after the first whistle). But you could just as well boil it in a pot. Just make sure you watch it to prevent contents from spilling over (take off the flame for a few seconds) or from drying up (add more water).

The perfect consistency for Rasam is watery, with fibres in it. Like orange juice with bits. The tomato will almost disappear.

When this happens, mix in the strained tamarind water (or paste). In another small pan bring the oil to heat over a high flame. Add in order, the asafoetida, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until the curry leaves turn a dark shade of green and then mix into the soup.

Drink the Rasam piping hot as a soup or enjoy it with some plain steamed rice.

11 responses to “Operation Rasam”

  1. Mallika, this sounds fantastic. I am always looking for natural cures for colds. Eating raw garlic is one, or soup made from boiling sliced onions. Or echinachea drops if you catch the sniffles just in time. And chewing on cinammon bark is a winner too. I suspect north Devon may not yield me tamarind or curry leaves (neither of which I have used…yet). However the city awaits, and there I may be more lucky…

  2. Maninas says:

    Hello! May I have your expert opinion on something? What do you think of concentrated tamarind? Do you use it, too? Ta!

  3. Maninas says:

    … and sorry to hear about your cold! I hate having a cold. They’re so boring, annoying and pointless, if you ask me.

  4. Sonal says:

    Hi Mallika,
    I hope you are feeling much better now and I hope your sis’s debut has done well in India. I have been a silent spectator of your awesome blog for a while now, but I wanted to complement you on an incredible blog.
    Additionally, may I add your blog to my blog roll?

  5. sia says:

    get well soon darling… hw abt trying some pepper rasam too? 🙂

  6. padmaja says:

    Hope u are feeling better now mallika?
    I love rasam and we used to have this with potato fry and papad!! Simple but does wonders to the mood!!

  7. Mallika says:

    Thanks so much ladies. Sia – good idea about Pepper Rasam. Is this recipe on your site?

    Maninas – I am a BIG fan of anything readymade (bar ginger/garlic). I bought actual tamarind in a fit of total idiocy and will be back to using the pasty stuff asap. You just need to add it bit by bit, coz it’s a bit hard to judge the tanginess.

    Elisabeth – please stock up on fresh curry leaves. They freeze well and stay fresh for ages. One bag of mustard seeds will last an age too. I had no idea about the garlic and cinnamon cures! Thanks!!

  8. Wendy says:

    I’m such a chilli wimp. Wonder if the dulled senses of a cold would make me more adventurous… Will let you know. Not that I’m hoping to get a cold, you understand. 🙂

  9. Maninas says:

    ok, ta!

    i was wondering if there’s any difference in taste between the concentrate and the other stuff.

  10. Mallika says:

    Hi again Maninas – The taste is completely the same. Only difference is texture. The ready stuff is more gloopy and thick. I would recommend it!

  11. […] sniffle, cough, I had tried Rasam. And it definitely helped me along. But fresh out of the powder I made, I was ready to dive into […]

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