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Tomato rasam from Udipi (Udipi saaru)

I have recently been making a number of rasam recipes, see my blog, and it has opened my mind to the different textures and flavors that this savory drink bring to the table. I have discovered that the name changes with the region or community, the consistency changes, with or without lentils, the flavors change from mild to super spicy, but each one is delicious. While the world is catching up with nutritional shots, this was the original nutritional shot. Historical reference has dated the first recipe to the 16th century, but the term derives from the Sanskrit "rasa" which means "juice" usually of tamarind or tomato, and lead to the coinage of the word rasam.

As a note, a true rasam is always served as a aperitif, it opens up the palate, the aroma stimulates the brain to start digestion and the stomach begins to expect food making you hungry. For me it is one of the best pre-starters I can serve.

This rasam stays true to all the stories and benefits of this amazing drink. It is delicate with a smooth palate feel. The aromas of coconut and the slight tanginess of tomato is balanced by the pop of chili and tempered spiced. Trust me you will ask for another glass of this rasam.

This is another cookbook from Chandra Padmanabhan that I adore. The recipes are varied across the southern states in India and each recipe turns out very well. The recipes, like this one, are authentic and wonderfully flavored. This cookbook is for those who want to go beyond the ordinary and enjoy very localized cuisines from the South.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the spice powder:

2-3 dried long chilies

2-3 dried round red chilies (boriya chilies)

1 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon grated fresh coconut

A pinch of asafoetida

For the Rasam:

1/3 cup pigeon (toor) peas

1 1/2 cups water Salt, to taste

3-4 tomatoes, roughly diced

1 cup water

Salt, to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste

2 tablespoons jaggery

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons coconut oil

To temper:

2 teaspoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 dried red chilies

10-12 curry leaves

Cilantro, to garnish

Tomatoes, finely diced, to garnish

Add the lentils to a pressure cooker, or Instapot, with the water and cook for 30 minutes, or till completely cooked and the lentils are breaking down. Cool and set aside.

Add the tomatoes to a pot with the water and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes till the tomatoes are broken down.

While the tomatoes are cooking, dry roast each of the spice powder ingredients, except asafoetida, on a frying pan individually till lightly colored and aromatic. Cool and add to a small spice grinder or coffee mill with the asafoetida and grind into a smooth powder. Set aside.

When the tomatoes are cooked, add the tamarind, jaggery, and turmeric and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile fry the spice powder in 2 teaspoons of the coconut oil till lightly browned and aromatic. Add to the simmering tomatoes. When the lentils are cooked, add to the tomatoes, adjust water to a thick sauce and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

You can choose to leave the rasam slightly chunky as is. However, I prefer to have a smooth rasam for a better mouth-feel. Purée the rasam with a hand blender or in a blender till very smooth. Add water to bring up to the consistency of a thin soup. Taste and adjust salt.

Temper the spices by heating the 2 teaspoons of ghee in a small vessel and add the mustard seeds followed by the rest of the ingredients. Fry for 30 seconds, till the mustard seeds begin to pop, and pour over the rasam. Mix in.

To serve, heat the rasam gently, adjusting the consistency with water if needed. Pour into glasses and garnish with the chopped tomatoes and cilantro.

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