As the title implies, this is a quick shortcut to making that ubiquitous South Indian comfort food, rasam. The name rasam itself means, nectar, essence or ambrosia. In the hands of the right cook, it is quite clearly the latter. I have included several rasam recipes, but there is always one more. There are as many types of rasam as one could imagine including such exotic ones as neem flower rasam, roasted cumin rasam, rose petal rasam and yes, even a Hawaiian pineapple rasam.
This one here is a quick and easy version that is my favorite comfort food for those tired nights when even a spoon feels as heavy as one’s forehead. More of a soup, I eat it with dry toast or crusty fresh bread. Make enough for seconds and leftovers. There’s nothing I find more comforting when I have a cold or a fever or just feeling run down.
The Simple Rasam
Hot Water – 6 – 8 cups
Puréed tomato – 1 cup
Tamarind paste – 1 tsp
Fresh Ground Pepper – 1/2 tsp
Rasam Powder – 1 tbs
Fresh Ginger ( tender) – 1 tbs
Ground turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Brown sugar – 1 tsp
Chopped Ripe Tomato – 2 medium
Chopped fresh coriander – 1/4 cup
Ghee – 2 tbs
Black mustard seed – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) – 1/4 tsp
Curry Leaves (minced) – 6-8
Fresh lemon/lime juice – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Thai chilies slit – 2
Heat water in a saucepan and add chopped or smashed ginger, tamarind, pepper, rasam powder, turmeric, half the chopped cilantro, half the asafoetida, curry leaves and puréed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add a tsp of salt and the sugar ( or jaggery if you prefer).
Reduce the heat after the pot boils and add chopped tomatoes. You could substitute a few whole cherry tomatoes. Add enough water to top off the pan and allow to come to a gentle simmer and turn off the heat.
Heat the ghee in a small pan and fry the mustard seeds still they splutter, add the cumin, the asafoetida and 2 fresh green chilies slit lengthwise. (you may want to make sure your exhaust fan is on for this step. ) Allow this pan to cool before adding to the rasam.
Add the remaining coriander and the lemon or lime juice and taste for salt.
If you let the rasam sit for a few minutes and ladle it off the top, you should get a clear consomme type liquid that you can serve in a bowl over gummy rice (congi) or eat with dry toast or fresh bread.
You can get good rasam powder in any India grocer. It’s also easy to make and stores well in a spice jar. It’s one of those basic spice blends for any kitchen. Here is my recipe for the American kitchen.