Gravies & Curries Zephyr's Corner

Rasam – Comfort Food Par Excellence

If there is a south Indian vegetarian equivalent of chicken soup, it has to be rasam. Combined with steamed rice with a dollop of ghee, it is also the best comfort food. The best thing about rasam though, is its hundreds of avatars. There are so many varieties that one need not repeat the same recipe for weeks, if one doesn’t want to.

As most of the rasam varieties contain dal, it can meet the protein requirement in the diet. It can be safely given to small children mixed with rice and dal with lots of ghee. As a convalescent food it is excellent as the pepper helps in digestion and also clear phlegm in the chest.

There is the basic tomato rasam, followed by pepper rasam, jeera rasam, garlic rasam, Mysore rasam, a host of rasams made with medicinal ingredients, pineapple rasam, rose petal rasam and more.

It has now found new status as ‘clear soup’ in formal meals and even five star hotels. U remember reading somewhere that the ‘mulligatawny soup’, which costs and arm and a leg and tastes nothing like the original pepper rasam – is actually a corruption of the Tamil words ‘milagu tanni’ which means pepper water 😊

Rasam can be served with medu vada (soft urad dal vada), much like dahi wada and is fast becoming popular in south Indian restaurants.

I am sharing here the recipe of the basic rasam, which is so soothing and comforting that millions of families down south, especially in Tamil Nadu survive only on rice, rasam and some stir-fried vegetables or even roasted papad!

I use my own homemade rasam powder, which contains more pepper and jeera compared to store bought ones. These two ingredients make it even more healthy and good for digestion. Yes, I am sharing recipe for that too!


Ingredients: (For 4 -5 servings)

Tur dal ½ cup

Tamarind – small lemon sized ball

Tomato  – 1 large

Rasam Powder  1-11/2 heaped tsp.

Ginger  – a small piece (peeled and grated)

Green chilly  – 1 slit lengthwise

Coriander leaves for garnish

Rasam Ingredients
Rasam Ingredients

For tempering:

Mustard seeds  – ½ tsp

Jeera – A large pinch

Hing – ¼ tsp

Ghee – 1tsp



  1. Soak tur dal for half an hour and pressure cook till soft.
  2. Soak tamarind in a cup of hot water and extract pulp.
  3. Chop tomato finely/cut it into large pieces/pulp it. However, it is best to chop it into small pieces as it adds colour and taste.
  4. In a vessel, take the tamarind pulp, add another cup of water and the tomatoes. Add salt, a little turmeric powder. Let it cook on low heat till the tomatoes turn soft but retain their shape. Add rasam powder, grated ginger and slit chilly. Let it boil for another five minutes.
  5. Now mash the dal well and add it to the rasam. At this stage the rasam will be very thick. Add the remaining two cups of water and let it simmer till it begins frothing at the edges. It has a glorious yellow colour at this stage. Switch off the flame and garnish with coriander.
  6. In a tempering pan add the ghee and when it turns hot, add the mustard and jeera. When they sputter, add hing and tip the contents into the rasam.

Serve as a starter, or mix it with hot steamed rice and dig in! A spicy papad will do fine as an accompaniment. And don’t forget to add some ghee to the rice for that special fragrance.

Do try and let me know how you liked it!

Rasam – Comfort Food Par Excellence
Rasam – Comfort Food Par Excellence

Zephyr’s recipe for rasam powder:

I have tweaked my mother’s recipe a bit. She grinds all ingredients raw, which has an equally great flavour and aroma.

Tur dal  1 cup

Peppercorn  – ¼ cup

Jeera  ½ cup

Dhania  ¼ cup

Red Chillies 5-6

Dried curry leaves 15-20

Hing ½ tsp

Turmeric powder ½ tsp



1.Dry roast tur dal to a golden brown colour.

2.Roast peppercorn and dhania one after another till a mild aroma emanates. No need to brown the dhania.

3.In a few drops of oil, saute the chillies.

4.Mix everything, add jeera and curry leaves to the mixture. Don’t roast the jeera as it will change the flavour of the rasam.

5.Grind to a fine powder adding hing and turmeric at the end.

6.Store in a jar after it cools completely. Use as required.

Note: You can scale down the quantities and make just enough for one or two times if you don’t make rasam often and don’t need more. Though, I can guarantee you that you will begin making it frequently once you taste this recipe 😊

Also, you can skip the dried curry leaves if you don’t have any. I wash and dry the leaves in shade and keep it bottled for emergencies and to add to the masalas. You can add a few leaves to the tadka.


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