The very basis of this simple yet delicious dish is the rasam ‘podi’ (pronounced: ‘Po’ as in poll and ‘Di’ as in dig) or powder. This is the mixture of spices that gives Rasam it’s unique taste. It is heavily pepper and chilly based and is the cure for many a common malaise (Read about them in my Old wives’ page for Rasam).
The rasam or saaru podi is special in that every south Indian household has their own take on it. This is inherited from generations of mums, grandmas and greatgrandmas and in my opinion is the most valuable form of inheritance – knowledge.
Needless to say, every south Indian person tends to be partial to their mum’s/grandma’s/greatgrandma’s take on the dish and I’m no exception. My mum’s Rasam is the best rasam in the world and she makes it exactly like her mum (whom I call Papa) did. Even as a child, I was unimpressed with the other rasams in the area and would report back to mum about how the rasam next door wasn’t the greatest. Never mind being thankful for the invitation to eat there.
Without much ado, let me give you the recipe for it.
Rasam powder ingredients :
(This makes enough for several batches of rasam and can be stored in an air-tight container for several months. Always use a dry spoon to handle rasam podi)
½ cup pepper
½ cup cumin
1 cup red chillies
½ cup toor dal (at the Indian store) or Yellow lentils at the supermarket.
½ cup curry leaves
1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
Method for making Rasam powder (Rasam podi or Saaru pudi):
1. I use the recipe by substituting ‘cup’ for ‘tablespoon’. This usually gives me enough powder for 2 lots of rasam for 4 people.
2. Dry roast all the ingredients and cool to room temperature.
3. Grind coarsely and store in an airtight container for several months
1-2 heaped tsp of rasam mix
1-2 green chillies slit lengthwise
1 clove of garlic crushed lightly with a knife (this is optional)
1 tsp of brown sugar (my Kannada side can’t contain itself)
1 tsp of salt
2 tsp tamarind puree or a cup of tamarind juice
¼ cup of well cooked (to a mush) toor dal
2 tomatoes finely diced
3-4 springs of fresh coriander
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 spring of curry leaves
½ teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida
1-2 tsp of oil / butter/ margarine/ ghee for tempering
Method for rasam:
1. In a standard coffee cup or cereal bowl add all the ingredients in bold italics.
2. Top the ingredients with boiling water to the brim and stir until blended. The rasam spice mix will settle to the bottom so mix well.
3. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil.
4 Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves to the oil.
5. The seeds will start to crackle instantly if the oil is the right temperature.
6. Before the oil starts to fume, add the cup of liquid from (2) above to the pot.
7. Add chopped tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil.
8. Add the well cooked toor dal and bring to a boil.
9. Turn the heat source off and add fresh coriander before serving.
1. If you want the rasam spicier, add chilli powder to the mixture in step 1 above
2. If you like a little more tang to your rasam, squeeze fresh lemon juice into it and stir through just before serving.
3. If you are feeling indulgent, replace the oil in step3 with ghee or butter
4. The fancier way to make rasam (if you have the time for it) is to add the spices and water in steps 1 and 2 to a pot and bring to a boil. . Then follow steps 7-9 above. Finally, in a separate, small, pan, follow steps 3-6 and pour the hot oil/butter over the rasam. Keep a safe distance from the pot as oil+water = some spluttering and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt making rasam.