Rasam!

Rasam or chaaru is a very important part of Andhra meal.  Rasam means juice and typically is made with juice extracted from tamarind or tomatoes or both simmered and seasoned with spices.  In most households no meal is ever complete without rasam.  It is usually eaten with rice and some times eaten as a soup.  We grew up on rasam and rice as comfort food…if one falls sick rasam and rice is the only thing they are served, if one has a cold you are encouraged to drink peppery rasam, if one is not hungry ‘at least eat some rice and rasam’ is what you hear at the dinner table…rasam cured everything in our house.

Most rasam recipes are very simple since it does not have many ingredients.  The recipe I am sharing here is an extreme variation of traditional rasam recipe.  I started with a basic recipe and kept adding to it. I like rasam to be a little thick so I add toor dal (pigeon peas) and a friend once added carrots to the base and I stole that idea since I am always looking for ways to hide vegetables in plain sight.  When my husband’s cholesterol was found to be high I started adding asparagus to rasam since asparagus lowers cholesterol…so this is a constantly changing recipe.

IMG_5483

Ingredients:

  • Toor dal – 1/4 cup
  • Plum tomatoes – 6
  • Carrots – 2
  • Asparagus – 8 stalks
  • 1 small onion
  • Green chillies – 2
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs
  • Curry leaves – 10
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Rasam powder * – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Dried red chillies – 2
  • Jaggery – small piece or sugar 1 tsp

*Rasam powder is commercially available in stores.  It can be made at home too.  Hopefully, I will get around to posting that recipe one of these days.  Rasam powder is a very essential ingredient – it adds aroma and a unique flavor to rasam.

Method:

  1. Dice tomatoes; peel and dice carrots; clean asparagus, snap off the woody ends and cut them into 1 1/2 inch pieces; thinly slice onions; slit green chillies
  2. Wash toor dal and pressure cook dal with tomatoes, carrots and 1/2 cup of water
  3. Grind to a smooth paste
  4. Heat oil and add mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds start splattering add cumin, garlic and red chillies and cook for a few seconds
  5. Add sliced onions, green chillies and curry leaves and cook until onions become translucent.  Do not brown the onions
  6. Add asparagus and saute for a couple minutes
  7. Add the paste and enough water to thin it
  8. Add salt and a few grinds of pepper mill.  You can add as much or as little pepper as you want.  Do not omit black pepper as it is essential for authentic tasting rasam
  9. Bring it to a rolling boil; add coriander leaves, jaggery and rasam powder and simmer on medium-low heat for a couple minutes
  10. Enjoy it piping hot in a bowl as soup or with rice
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