The “Humble” Rasam

Right through the 3 years of the pandemic I have been meaning to write about a South Indian household’s favourite broth – the humble rasam. According to me the best rasam was my paternal grandmother’s. I am yet to find one that rivals the taste that Ammanoor Paati’s rasam had. Btw we call it “saatrumadhu” at home … its divine “amadhu”.

My athai’s also make good saatrumadhu, but it’s still not what Paati would make. Its a thin broth so I usually don’t eat rasam-rice if I am eating on a banana leaf …. it will just run off the leaf and I will make a mess. It needs some deft handling and it requires the use of one’s full palm to mix the rice quickly and also to scoop it into your mouth without dropping. And yes, one has to lick the palm and I just can’t do it.

I eat with my hands, but without involving anything more than my finger tips. If I am mixing rasam-rice at home, I use a bowl to mash the rice, mix in ghee and rasam, wash my hands and then serve it on plates. That way the flavour and taste is taken care of without getting my palms into play while eating. Usually am happy having saatrumadhu as a soup.

Rasam Rice

The Health benefits of Rasam

I laughed when news articles gushed about how the bio-availability of curcumin in turmeric is enhanced when you add some pepper powder to it. Well, there is no saatrumadhu without turmeric and pepper.

There are several varieties of saatrumadhu – Jeera-milagu (Cumin-pepper), lemon, paruppu (lentil) rasam, pori saathumadhu, mysore rasam, drumstick rasam, vepampoo (neem flower) etc. The most common one made almost everyday at home is the Jeera Milagu saatrumadhu.

During the pandemic, we made rasam every day. It did the work of a “kaadha” and was helpful in building immunity. Some of the health benefits are –

  1. Avoid constipation – with tamarind, mustard seeds, cumin and pepper along with some tomatoes, saathumadhu works as a good laxative.
  2. Appetizer – If it’s drunk as a soup, it does the work of an appetiser without filling you up ! Pepper helps in digestion by signalling to the stomach that food is on its way.
  3. Stave off colds – Every time my favourite boss Mohit would get a cold, he will ask me to make some rasam. It works really well in clearing up the sinuses and hot rasam down your throat feels good when you have a cold or a sore throat.

Doesn’t feel like this is something “humble” :). Here is the rasam powder recipe that I use at home.

Rasam Powder Recipe

Coriander seeds - 3 cups
Arhar/Tuvaram dal - 1 cup
Jeera (cumin) and Pepper - 1/2 cup each
Turmeric - 2 TBSP
Red Chilly Powder - 1/2 Cup (increase or decrease depending on spice levels required)
Note - you can use whole red chillies as well. 

Keep these out in the Sun to dry completely or roast them lightly. Coarsely grind and store in an airtight jar. Make smaller quantities to retain the freshness and flavour. 

Making Saatrumadhu is really simple. Soak a lemon sized Tamarind ball in some water. Take 1.5 cups of water and add the Tamarind pulp to it. Add Two tomatoes, diced, two TBSPs of the rasam powder mentioned above, 1 TSP of Turmeric, a pinch of asafoetida, 1 TBSP of Jeera and Pepper coarsely ground to the Tamarind water. Bring everything to a boil. The room must smell of saatrumadhu :). Add freshly chopped coriander leaves and tadka with mustard. Note – use cold pressed sesame oil for the tadka, any other oil will change the flavour.

Enjoy the heavenly broth with rice or just by itself.

Important - If any of you has had Rasam at my place or a typical Brahmin household and complain that yours doesn't taste the same, you would be right. There is a special vessel to make Saatrumadhu called "eeya chombu". Eeyam translates to lead but the eeya chombu (pot) is made of tin. Rasam has to be made only in an eeya chombu to get the authentic aroma and flavour. Will write a post about that separately :). 


2 thoughts on “The “Humble” Rasam”

  1. Too bad I already planned vetha kozhambu for the day, else I’d have taken up rasam 😊. It’s truly a medicinal dish, made out of simple healthful ingredients. Like Dhanvantari Himself, rasam is a sarvaroga nivarini!

    I too roll my eyes when I read about bioavailability of this and that ! All of this science has been incorporated in our cuisine by our ancients, who also generously passed on the knowledge free of cost as opposed to “patenting” it. Or worse, patenting other civilization’s knowledge as one’s own invention !! Makes me so angry. Jeera-pepper-turmeric is literally how generations of our ancestors ate, and specifically for the healing properties of these spices. And we continue to do so. More power to Molagu Thanni 💪💪


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