An aromatic and delicious broth, this rasam is a celebration of the deep and sunny flavors of ginger and lemon. Ginger is brewed in water along with tomato, salt and turmeric, thickened with cooked toor dal, tempered with choice seasonings and finished off with a generous drizzle of lemon juice.
Rasam, the mere mention of the word simultaneously evokes in me, feelings of comfort and well-being, of sickness & nostalgia. Best described as a broth or soup, rasam is a light-bodied concoction that has a bold and vibrant temperament. A good rasam will harmoniously hit every note of the six flavors (Salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, and astringent). In the larger scheme of South-Indian meals, rasam falls under the middle course, a happy via-media between the heavy and spicy kootans or kuzhambus (sambar, morkootan etc) and the cooling and calming thayir (yoghurt).
The most common rasam, which is the paruppu rasam or dal rasam, is made by brewing tamarind water with tomatoes, rasam powder, salt, turmeric, a wee bit of jaggery and hing. Cooked and mashed dal is added to thicken the brew, intensified with mustard seeds, methi seeds (fengreek) and curry leaves tempered in ghee, and finally finished off with a garnish of coriander leaves.
There are so many varieties of Rasam in the lexicon of South-Indian cookery. A few that immediately come to mind are Tomato rasam, Mysore rasam, Milagu rasam (pepper rasam), Pineapple rasam, Lemon rasam and the list is quite endless.
It’s a simple dish in concept, but it’s truly a work of art to tame and balance the big and bold flavors of the ingredients into a subtle yet impactful dish. But once you’ve got it figured out, there’s no greater comfort and/or delight than a well-made rasam.
THIS RECIPE SERVES 6
- Tomato – 1 finely chopped
- Ginger – 2 inch piece
- Tumeric powder – 1/4 tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Rasam powder – 1/2 tsp (optional)
- Cooked Toor Dal – 2 tbsp
- Lemon – 1 large or 2 tbsps lemon juice
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Jeera/Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Green Chilli – 1 slit
- Curry leaves – 4 or 5
- Corriander leaves – to garnish
- Toss the chopped tomato, crushed ginger, turmeric powder, salt, rasam powder(if using) along with a cup of water into a heavy-bottomed vessel.
- Bring to a roaring boil and then let it boil for 5 mins. Turn down the heat to low. Remove the ginger. Add the toor dal diluted in 1.5 cups of water. Mix well.
- Heat ghee in a tadka pan. Add the mustard seeds. When it begins to splutter, add the jeera, slit green chilli and curry leaves. When the jeera has browned and the green chilli has blistered, pour it over the rasam.
- Pour the lemon juice. Turn up the heat and simmer until the rasam turns frothy on the surface.
- Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice.
- I don’t like the flavors of ginger to overpower the rasam and therefore I like to fish them out before serving the rasam, but if you’d like a stronger ginger presence, by all means, leave it in.
- I’ve used 2 tbsps of lemon juice here, but the potency of lemon differs, and therefore start with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, taste and add more if needed.