All this talk about immunity and the only dish that comes to my mind is Rasam — a delightful part of every meal in the south of India. If there was one dish I could eat all my life, it would be this one.
There isn’t any extra information in this article about Rasam that you won’t find elsewhere. BUT, there’s more love for this dear dish here than anywhere else.
I don’t know of a dish so versatile and yet so humble and comforting.
It’s hard to find the perfect analogy but I’m reminded of the comfort we felt knowing that we could beat Voldemort no matter what because Dumbledore was still around. When you’ve burnt everything else, you know all is not lost if there’s Rasam.
As a typical South Indian family, you know it’s lunchtime when you hear the pressure cooker screeching in high pitches and the sweet-sour aroma of Rasam engulfing you, making you sneeze a few times. Achoo.
Every family makes Rasam differently, and I think we all secretly pride ourselves on our Rasam making abilities. And of course, according to me, my parents are the best chefs when it comes to Rasam. It’s a unique aroma and taste particular to my family, that I grew up with and can never put up for comparison. Even among restaurants, I think your food is only as good as your Rasam — a status that fried rice apparently holds in some of the Asian countries.
It’s always about how well you can make the simplest dish.
Is it a soup? Is it a sauce? Is it superman’s secret power? No, no and yes.
Honestly, it feels odd to call it a soup. First of all, something that is eaten with rice, somehow, never classifies as a soup for me.
“Rasam” by itself means “juice”. It’s much thinner than a soup, usually has no vegetables or protein, but instead is a brew of many different spices. So it’s more of a concoction if you will.
It’s also a little bit of home on your plate.
What are the secret ingredients of this super dish?
Only all the best things ever.
- Tamarind juice — for the base
- Cumin and mustard seeds — for crunchy part
- Coriander, Curry leaves — for the green part
- Turmeric — for the yellow part
- Rasam Powder — for all the other colours!
This by itself is the most basic recipe. If you thought this by itself is drool-worthy, wait till you hear the rest.
The most popular variations to this recipe are Garlic Rasam, Lemon Rasam and Pepper Rasam. I am also a fan of Drumstick Rasam and Onion Rasam. Depending on different regions and traditions of different families, there are countless variations.
In mine, my mom adds a little piece of jaggery, and it goes from being Neville Longbottom in the first year of Hogwarts to Matthew Lewis now. You know what I mean.
Why do we eat Rasam?
Ah, how I love explaining this.
Every day meals in India, and especially in the south usually have at least 4 courses.
The region where I am from, Rasam or Chaaru is usually the penultimate course. You first eat your protein, usually, a Dal or Pappu made of lentils. Then you eat your vegetables.
The idea is that your stomach works on absorbing all the important nutrients first. Next, to help with the digestion of these and aid with other important functions such as building immunity and boosting metabolism, you eat Rasam.
Our digestive system, like any other machine, needs to be paused and cleaned once in a while to ensure efficiency and slow down wear and tear. Rasam does this for us every day. As you can imagine, Turmeric as an antibiotic is a major contributor. But pepper and cumin, also present in the Rasam powder boost metabolism. In addition to other spices, lemon and tomatoes pack the dish with Vitamin A and C, folic acid and minerals, making it an excellent nourishing and a detoxifying element of the meal. The dish as a whole is a great natural laxative.
And so, when we are sick, we eat Rasam. When we don’t want to fall sick, we eat Rasam. And also, when we are homesick, we eat Rasam.
By now, there’s a battle of spices happening in your stomach.
So now you bring in the big guy to call a truce. This ultimate course is generally curd or yoghurt with rice. Sometimes, people also prefer buttermilk or Chaas. This not only soothes the stomach’s inner linings from all the spicy action but is also a much needed probiotic.
In my head, I always imagine curd or yoghurt restoring my systems to their original state, so I can go about binging on more spicy food.
Some day, I will write a love letter for Idly. For now, it’s time to make Rasam.