Before we jump into the recipe, there are a few things that grandmothers would tell you when making rasam. Especially if its a tamarind based rasam.
# Rasam should never be brought to a roaring boil
# Salt should be added only in the end
# Always cook rasam at a low temperature
Traditionally rasam in Tamilnadu was made in eeya chatti. Eeyam or Velleeyam that’s used for cooking is nothing but a vessel coated with Tin. Tin is supposed to have health properties. But there was one problem. Tin has a very low melting point. Tin melts at a low temperature of about 200 – 230 °C. So the liquid cannot be heated up in a tin vessel for long. If heated for too long, the metal itself would start to melt.
Also reactive ingredients like tamarind, lemon and salt were never boiled for a long time in the vessel. That’s the reason lemon and salt were added during the end of cooking process. Tamarind water was never boiled for too long for the same reason. Rasam made in eeya chatti tastes different. But today, steel vessels have taken over every kitchen. So people have forgotten the reason as to why things were done in a certain way. But if one follows the same principles even today, you will end up with a lip smacking rasam that will cozy up your tummy and warm up your heart. You will end up with a rasam that tastes as close to your grandma.
Lets make traditional style poondu rasam today. Not in eeya chatti but in an everyday steel vessel. I adapted this recipe from a Coimbatore cookbook called “simply homemade” by Jayanthi Manohar. The book has recipes from the kongunad region. We will need to make “Jillakara Mirel” powder for this rasam. Its nothing but cumin and pepper powder. Grind the cumin and pepper in a mortar and pestle. Set aside. Also roughly crush the garlic cloves along with its peel. Set aside. Soak tamarind in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind to make tamarind pulp. Discard the seeds and the pith. Add 2 cups of water to the tamarind pulp. Set aside. We will have 3 cups of liquid now.
Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and compound asafoetida / katti perungayam. Katti perungayam tastes so much better than the usual asafoetida powder. If you dont have compound, then you can add powder. Let the seeds splutter. Add in the crushed garlic and fry for a minute to roast the garlic. Add in the “Jillakara Mirel” / cumin-pepper powder and fry for 20 seconds. Frying the cumin and pepper brings out the essential oils in them and the final rasam tastes more flavorful.
Now add in the tamarind pulp and reduce the flame to low. Add in the curry leaves and turmeric. The flavor of curry leaves that is tempered in oil vs boiled in liquid is totally different. Add in the curry leaves after adding the tamarind liquid. Let it come to a mere simmer. The rasam will slowly foam up and slightly start to boil. That is it. Switch off the flame.
Green chillies are added in almost every rasam at the last in the kongunad region. It doesn’t make the rasam spicy but the chilli aroma gets steeped into the rasam and makes it so aromatic. Add in the coriander leaves and the salt.
Now comes the important part. Immediately after adding these 3 ingredients, cover the rasam with a lid and allow the flavors to steep for 15 minutes.
Serve the rasam with rice for lunch.
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil (gingely / nallennai)
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- a big pinch asafoetida
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black pepper corns
- 12 cloves garlic
- ½ a lime size tamarind
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- 2 sprigs coriander leaves, chopped
- 3 cups water (750 ml)
- Grind the cumin and pepper in a mortar and pestle. Also roughly crush the garlic cloves along with its peel. Soak tamarind in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind to make tamarind pulp. Discard the seeds and the pith. Add 2 cups of water to the tamarind pulp. Set aside. We have 3 cups of liquid now.
- Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and compound asafoetida. Let the seeds splutter.
- Add in the crushed garlic and fry for a minute to roast the garlic. Add in the cumin-pepper powder and fry for 20 seconds.
- Now add in the tamarind pulp and reduce the flame to low. Add in the curry leaves and turmeric. The rasam will slowly foam up and slightly start to boil. Switch off the flame.
- Add in the chopped green chillies, coriander leaves and the salt.
- Cover the rasam with a lid and allow the flavours to steep for 15 minutes.