Depending on perspective, rasam can be the most difficult or easiest dish to make. From experience I have realised that over time you understand little nuances of rasam-making – how much powder, how long must it boil, when can you say it is done. There used to be a time, whatever I tried my rasam would be lacking “something”. And no matter how many recipes I mimicked or reliance calls to amma I stuck to, my rasam wasnt rasam. DOT
So finally I brewed it my way a couple of years ago. No imitations, no recipe-diary-peeking, no hard and fast rules. I am sure I dont stick to the following procedure to the T, but more or less I do it this way and I can now state with conviction that the rasam tastes like rasam should
2 small tomatoes or 1 medium size tomato
a generous handful of cilantro finely cut
gooseberry size tamarind soaked in a cup of warm/hot water
2 to 3 garlic pods mildly crushed
rasam powder OR sambhar powder OR a combo of coriander + jeera + chilly powder
For tempering/tadka/tallichu kotarathuku/kaduvarakaan/kaduvarakarathuku (a little pompous multi-linguistic talking 🙂 ) –
2 or 3 black peppercorns, midly crushed
Beat the tomatoes to a semi-pulp in the blender. (I have a phobia for whole tomatoes cooked or raw. So I hide them by beating them to pulp for almost all my dishes.)
In a heavy bottom/copper botton vessel, heat oil or ghee ( I have never used ghee owing to N’s phobia for yummy milk products. If your athukaarar digs ghee, don’t hesitate ! ). Add the tadka ingredients and let them pop. Add the pulped tomatoes and garlic to it. Let it cook until the raw smell disperses.Keep it covered on a medium flame.
Now add a couple of teaspoons of any of the powders you have access to. Trust me, just chilly and jeera powders should also do. How much to and how much not to add is something you will pick up in time.
Once the tomatoes and powders have made a pasty medley, pour the tamarind water and let it boil. Add more water as needed.
Let it boil on a medium flame, until the smell of rasam fills the house ( the most awesome tip I picked up and always makes me go ummm.. with a smile 🙂 )
Now take it off the flame and garnish with finely cut cilantro.
Serve with hot rice and a dollop of cooked mashed paruppu/daal.
Add a proportion of rasam powder with pepper when serving it to someone with a cold.
Reduce one tomato and substitute with the lemon grass you get in chinese store. I tried it once and its delectable. Although the taste is more of tom yam soup in this case.
So when unga aathu mama goes for a second helping of rasam, even though he is full after the first, you know you have hit the niche with rasam-brewing!!