Sunday, August 26, 2007

Annapoorna's Amma Rasam (Instant Tomato Rasam or Soup)

Rasam is one of the ultimate comfort foods and an ubiquitous dish in the South Indian Cuisine. I adore rasam and rice every day; or even a steaming mug of rasam with the meal, as a snack, etc.

There are many kinds of rasams to suit many occasions, but Amma Rasam is a quick and simple one; it doen't even require rasam podi. It was handed down from my husband's paternal grandmother, Annapoorna, and hence the name! She made this rasam when someone did not feel well or an extra dish was needed in a hurry upon the arrival of an unexpected guest. Her rasam was such a hit that it got baptized as Amma Rasam to distinguish it from the other kinds!

Rasams benefit greatly from the use of Ghee in the tadka/thalippu. Use Ghee if at all possible. Do include Fresh curry leaves as they add their unmistakable and indispensable aroma to rasam. Also if there is one dish to be generous with a big pinch of the potent asafoetida, it is rasam!

Note: If you have rasam powder handy, a teaspoon may be added along with the tomatoes for a lovely flavor.


1-2 tsp tamarind concentrate or juice extracted from a small walnut size ball of dry tamarind
1 T Ghee or oil
1/2 tsp each mustard seeds and Cumin seeds
1 T Chana dal
1 T Toor dal
3 dry red Chilies
1 or 2 pinches asafoetida
1 sprig Curry leaves
1 or 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 thin slice fresh Ginger (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp Indian Jaggery or brown sugar (optional)
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped


If using dried tamarind pulp, pinch off a piece about the size of a walnut from a block of dry tamarind and soak in about 2 cups of hot water for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, work the pulp with your fingers to knead it well and squeeze out and discard the solids and strain the liquid. Set aside the tamarind liquid until needed. If using tamarind concentrate, dissolve it in 2 cups of hot water.

Heat 1 T oil in a 2 or 3 quart sauce pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds, the dals, and the chilies. When the mustard seeds finish popping, add the Curry leaves and then the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger if using and 3 cups of water. Stir in tamarind water and the jaggery. Let it come to a boil, reduce heat and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the chopped cilantro, cover and let rest for 5 minutes for the flavors to meld. The solids at the bottom (the dals and spices) are generally not eaten from this rasam.

This Rasam is traditionally served over softly cooked rice with a little ghee or a pat of butter, vegetable side dishes and roasted papadums. A mug of rasam is fabulous to sip just by itself or along with the meal. Enjoy!!

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