Brothy, highly seasoned, savory and hot. Best over a bowl of rice and a topped with a scoop of homemade yogurt. A dash of a spicy salty aachaar (pickled condiment) is the ultimate yet optional finish. This is a classic South Indian last course in a dinner meal. It speaks home. It speaks the South. And it’s just comfort.
Tomato season is here and it’s time to use the best ones for this rasam recipe. The juiciest ripest reddest ones you can get. It’s worth it to get them at a farmer’s market but if you do buy them at the supermarket and they are cold and hard, leave them on the counter to ripen for a few days. In fact, I never refrigerate any tomatoes of any kind. Even when they get a little pruny on the countertop, you can do something with those!
Rasam usually calls for tamarind as an ingredient. It’s worth it to get real tamarind pulp in my opinion for tamarind recipes (easily order-able online) or tamarind paste or concentrate can work too.
It may be a hot summer very very soon, but I can eat this dish year-round. I hope you try it some day. Be sure to be a real South Indian and have it with good ole plain yogurt too.
- 2 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, chopped coarsely
- 1 tablespoons tamarind pulp (see note below)
- ¾ cup cooked toor dal (split pigeon peas)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- ¼ teaspoon brown mustard seed
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seed
- 1-2 dried red chilis, broken
- ¼ small onion, sliced thinly
- 10 curry leaves
- 4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon ginger/garlic paste (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder, like Kashmiri chili powder or any Indian chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground roasted fenugreek powder
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- ) Place tomatoes and tamarind pulp in small saucepan. Cover with about 1 ½ to 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Alternately, place in microwaveable bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 4 minutes.
- ) Mash with wooden spoon to loosen pulp. Discard tamarind seeds if there are any (use your hands—these rock-like seeds can break your blender!)
- ) Blend or puree mixture in a blender. Add cooked toor dal to this and blend. Set aside.
- ) Now you will begin the technique called “tarka”. Have all ingredients measured and ready near the stove because the process goes quickly, all within a few minutes.
- ) Heat oil in a wide skillet or pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Sprinkle in a few mustard seeds to test the hot oil. The mustard seeds should sizzle and pop. Once they start popping (like the sound of popcorn), add in the the rest of the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilis and lower the heat. The seeds should sizzle and fry in the hot oil, taking care not to burn the seeds. (If you burn them, start over and don’t worry! It takes a few trials to get this right!)
- ) Quickly, add the onion, curry leaves, and garlic. Stir well and reduce heat to medium-low (try to avoid browning the onions). Cook 5 minutes.
- ) Stir in the ginger/garlic paste, if using.
- ) Add the coriander powder, black pepper, and chili powder and turmeric. Cook 5 minutes.
- ) Add the tomato/tamarind juice mixture and salt.
- ) Add 2 cups water. Bring to boil and then let simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered. It should remain broth-like and not too thick of a soup. Add ½ cup water as necessary.
- ) Sprinkle in the roasted ground fenugreek. Stir well. Cook 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. It should taste sour, highly-seasoned, and spicy. Both rice and yogurt will tame those flavor notes.
- ) Sprinkle cilantro and serve hot ladled over basmati rice.
*Tamarind pulp can be found in Asian or Indian supermarkets in small packages in the spice aisles or online. You can use tamarind concentrate if desired but the pulp has a fruitier fresher flavor. To break off the pulp, use a sharp knife and cut a large chunk off. It may have large brown seeds; it would be easiest to microwave the pulp first, and then remove the seeds.
*To make about 2 packed tablespoons garlic/ginger paste, finely grate together the following into a puree, using a Microplane grater with coarse holes OR mashing in a mortar/pestle.
a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled if you wish
4-6 cloves peeled garlic
To see this in action, go to my Skillshare video on common Indian techniques.
Alternately, just finely mince the ginger with a sharp knife and use a garlic press for the garlic. If you quadruple the above quantities, the same result can be achieved in a high-powered blender. A food processor won’t give the same results for such a small quantity because of the large surface area.
A quadruple batch of the paste can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks and frozen for several months!
Roast about 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a skillet over medium heat. The video link above also has a visual on how to roast/toast spices. Grind the toasted seeds to a fine powder and use the appropriate quantity in the recipe. Store any leftover in a tightly sealed jar in the pantry.