Rasam (Clear Lentil Soup)
Rasam is a soupy, tangy South Indian dish that is widely considered to be a good digestive aid. For people with weak digestion (agni), it stimulates digestion and helps to increase appetite.The most typical ingredients used in this are black pepper, cumin, tamarind/lemon/tomatoes. Rasam may be enjoyed as is like a soup before starting a meal or can be mixed with rice and ghee.
- Rasam powder
- Water or lentil/dhal water which is just the water you obtain by decanting the excess water after cooking lentils like moong (split green gram) or toor (split red gram) dhal (3 cups – 1 cup is 200 ml)
- Tomatoes (1 large)
- Curry Leaves (5-6)
- 1 tsp tamarind paste (or 1 tbsp fresh tamarind extract)
- Salt to taste
- Hing powder (asofoetida) (1 pinch)
- Black pepper powder (per your taste)
- Haldi powder (turmeric) (1/2 tsp)
- 1 tsp jaggery powder
- 1 tsp ghee (for seasoning)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds (for seasoning)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (for seasoning)
- Coriander leaves finely chopped (1 tbsp)
- Cut tomatoes into small cubes, say ½ inch in size (larger they are, the more time they take to cook), but it is your choice how large or how small you want them to be.
- Cook the tomatoes in 1 and ½ cups of water with half the curry leaves and turmeric.
- Once the tomatoes are cooked, add rasam powder, salt, hing, black pepper powder, tamarind paste and jaggery, lentil water or plain water (remaining 1 and ½ cups) and bring it to a boil.
- Turn off the flame once rasam reaches a boil and adjust the spices as necessary.
- For tadka/seasoning – heat ghee in a pan or tadka utensil and when warm, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and remaining curry leaves. Add tadka to rasam.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Enjoy your rasam as a soup before your meal or with hot rice and ghee.
Sweet (jaggery, ghee) sour (tamarind, tomatoes), salty (salt), pungent (pepper, cumin, mustard), bitter (leaves, turmeric, mustard), astringent (hing, turmeric).
Rasam can tend to be spicy, salty and sour in general. This can be pitta aggravating. But if made with care, it can be made less spicy, less salty and less sour and hence not pitta aggravating. For pitta prakriti/vikruti or during summer – reduce salty, pungent and sour tastes and increase sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.
Due to its warm, light qualities and its good digestive properties, rasam is recommended for kaphas. For kapha prakriti/vikruti or during late winter/spring – reduce sweet, salty and sour tastes and increase pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.
In general, due to its warm, moist qualities and since it is a good digestive aid, rasam is good for vatas. For vata prakriti/vikruti or during fall/early winter – reduce pungent, astringent and bitter tastes and increase sweet, sour and salty tastes.
This is largely sattvic, but if spices are overdone or imbalanced (e.g. too sour, too pungent, too salty), can be rajasic in nature. If you store the rasam for more than a day, the tamasic quality will start to increase.
Warm, moist, mobile, liquid, sharp (can be tuned to be less sharp, by lowering quantities of pungent spices), clear.
Ingredients that tend to produce heating effect are salt, tamarind, tomatoes, mustard seeds, cumin, black pepper. Ingredients that tend to produce cooling effect are jaggery, hing, ghee.
Overall the effect can be made balanced between heating and cooling if care is taken to add a good mix of both types of ingredients i.e. by not making it too pungent, too sour or too salty. But rasam has a tendency to have an overall heating effect due to the predominance of heating ingredients in it.