Rasam- the spicy, sour soup from South India- dressed up with celery sticks in cocktail glasses- was the perfect party starter no. 2 at our friend Ruchi’s on Saturday. (Read about Ruchi’s party starter no. 1: recipe for the best Turkey Kebabs).
Rasam is a very traditional South Indian soup, laden with spices roasted and blended with tomatoes, lentils and tamarind. I personally find it heavenly! Ruchi served it hot in small glasses with sticks of celery to help stir the spices that tend to settle at the bottom-very modern, very fun!
Find out how to make Rasam- fortunately, there are some excellent commercial Rasam powder brands, which you can get from your local Indian store or Amazon.com. In fact, you can get all of the Indian groceries listed here from Amazon.com.
- Quarter cup Toor lentils
- 1 tomato
- 1 inch ball of fresh tamarind (or 1 tbsp ready tamarind paste)
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 1 tsp oil, ghee is preferable
- Salt to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons of Rasam powder
Wash the lentils really well and roughly chop the tomato. Soak the fresh tamarind in five tbsp of hot water. (If you can pre-soak the lentils for a couple of hours, the rasam (soup) will get cooked faster).
Add the lentils, tomato and one heaped tablespoon of the Rasam powder in a large pot with four cups of water and bring to the boil. Most of us would use a pressure cooker for this (one whistle and then 15 minutes on a low flame). If you choose to boil it, watch for the lentils spilling over or you may need to add more water, if the soup begins to dry up. Cook on a medium flame till the lentils and tomato are completely blended, and you get a watery soup.
Now, strain the tamarind pulp and add the water or the paste to the soup. Keep the Rasam on a simmer. In another small pan, heat the oil or ghee and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until the mustard seeds sputter and the leaves turn bright. Mix into the soup, simmer for a few minutes and enjoy steaming hot!