Rasam aka Pepper Water

This is one of the recipes in the book that would be of little use to those who have no 'andaz', as it was scribbled down on verbal instructions from my friend Sugandhi, who assures me that this is the quintessential south indian bomman rasam..all the other pepper waters I'd tried earlier never tasted quite as right as this one. It tastes just like the "pepper water" that we had at home as kids. Don't be intimidated by the long list, this is a beginner level recipe, and guaranteed to succeed.

Never Never Never make this from ready made mixes, it tastes unspeakably foul, and this recipe is so simple anyway.

You need
Rasam Mix
1 tsp tuvar ( toor or sambhar) dal. I have no idea what its called in English, but it is not red or yellow or moong lentils. Ask for it if in doubt.
1 tsp pepper corns
1 tsp jeera or cummin
half a teaspoon coriander seeds

Other stuff
A large lime sized ball of tamarind - preferably Indian, soaked in a cup of water, strained and squeezed. Discard the stringy fibres and seeds.
2 tomatoes chopped roughly
half a cup of cooked tur dal (- typically this would be scooped out of the dal you were cooking for sambhar, but there's no imperative to make sambhar and rasam)
half a teaspoon of chilli powder - adjust this upwards as kids grow more used to hot food.
Salt to taste, or 2 teaspoons.
Fresh coriander - a good handful of leaves and tender stalks, chopped up roughly -yes the keyword for this recipe is "roughly"!

Jhok or Tadka
I think the official translation for this word is seasoning...but Jhok or Tadka gives the preferred onomatoepiac effect
1 tablespoon pure ghee
half a teaspoon mustard seeds or rai
a pinch of hing or asafoetida (ground from a chunk of asofoetida - dont use the ready made powdered abomination)
curry leaves

  1. Dry roast the rasam mix for 2 minutes, or until it smells deliciously done - a kind of peppery lemony aroma should waft up to the tune of popping jeera seeds. Take it off the pan immediately and grind it finely in a coffee grinder if you dont have a Sumeet grinder.
  2. Pour the pre-soaked and strained tamarind water into a pan. Add a cup of water, the chopped tomatoes, half the ground masala, chilli powder and salt.
  3. Bring it to a simmer, once its simmering fiercely, add the cooked tuvar dal, and allow it to keep simmering.
  4. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the fresh coriander and the remaining rasam mix. Allow it to simmer as you continue on to the seasoning, or turn it off if you are not ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving, place the ghee in a tiny pan or kadai and heat. Add the rai, when it stops popping, add the curry leaves and turn the heat off. Add the pinch of hing. Tip the tadka into the rasam, also dipping the whole tiny vessel into the rasam if possible - this is to get every bit of the seasoning into the rasam.
How to eat
As part of a lunch, with white rice, papads,curd and any vegetable/fried meat/fried fish indian style
As a light supper, in a large cup with a spoon of white rice mixed through it
As a drink in a cup to soothe a chesty cold and cough.
Add dal sneakily for fussy eaters - they think there is absolutely no health value in rasam, so they will drink up.

How to cook

Notice all the simmering? This is to allow you to cook other dishes - if you forget and it simmers down, just add more water! It really needs very little attention once started off.