Rasam is a spicy South Indian lentil soup, flavored with curry or rasam powder, fresh curry leaves and either tamarind or tomatoes. Traditionally, rasam is served as a second course. This fiery, thin soup is eaten with a little rice or plain.
I’ve been making this heartier version of rasam for many years. Because it is thicker, it works well for a soup and salad dinner. Plus it satisfies my Indian food craving without having to spend all afternoon in the kitchen! Quick and easy is nice!
Curry leaves don’t taste anything like the ground yellow spice mixture, because they are not related. Whether they are sizzled in a tarka, or simply added to a soup, they impart a citrus like flavor and fragrance! If you can get them, by all means use them. I buy them at an Indian grocery store if they look fresh and bright green. Sometimes they don’t, which is when I order them from Amazon. Whatever I don’t use within a week, I will freeze. I’ve seen dried curry leaves being sold as well, but I never use them because they seem flavorless to me. But if that’s the only type you can get, give it a try.
We enjoy eating pappadums with our Indian meals at home. Pappadums are wafer thin discs made from a ground lentil batter. Spices, like cumin, garlic and chile pepper are often added. This mixture is then formed into super thin discs and dried. Restaurants often fry them in oil. I find them much tastier if either roasted over the flame of a gas stove, or zapped in the microwave. They do break and burn easily, so be gentle!
This rasam recipe was adapted from a Julie Sahni Indian cookbook. Add a salad, and some pappadums. If I have some cooked rice leftover in the refrigerator, I might add a small scoop to the bowl.
Give it this recipe try, if you like curries. It’s very tasty! 🙂
Here is the recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, washed well and drained
- 1 large can of tomatoes (fire roasted are nice)
- 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder or rasam powder, or to taste
- 4 cups water
- 1 can of coconut milk (14 oz) if you like
- a handful of fresh curry leaves
- salt to taste
- a little sesame oil (not the toasted kind)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 or 3 whole cayenne peppers, broken in half
- 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
- lime or lemon juice
In a heavy soup pot, combine the washed lentils, tomatoes, water and curry powder.
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes.
When the lentils are soft and have fallen apart, add the coconut milk if you are using it.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender or a regular one.
Add the curry leaves to the pot and simmer the soup a little longer.
If the rasam is too thick for your taste, thin it a little with extra water.
In a small pan, heat the sesame oil.
When hot add the mustard seeds. They will sizzle and sputter!
Stir, add the cumin seeds, asafetida and cayenne peppers.
Put the lid on the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until everything is fragrant and nicely colored, but not burned.
Taste the soup and adjust the salt and curry powder if needed.
Add the lemon or lime juice.
Pour the sizzled seeds into the rasam, return to a quick boil and serve.
To prepare the pappadums, carefully separate them and put them in a single layer directly into the microwave oven.
My microwave fits three pappadums snuggly on the turntable.
Cook for 1 minute. They will get crisp and lightly colored.
I’ve tried many different brands of pappadums. This brand is the best one in my opinion! If you have any left over, put them in a sealed plastic bag. They stay crisp for a few days that way.