The Simple Tomato Rasam


Every time I post a Tamil-Kannadiga Recipe, it is mostly, keeping my friend A in mind. She is from the Northern part of India, a lover of the South Indian cuisine and a big foodie like me. We are very alike in many aspects. Obsessive, over controlling mothers. Manipulative wives. And both of us, hyperventilate at the sight of food. Owing to our similar traits, we stick to each other like fleas on a dog, and are always on the phone, condoning, consoling, supporting, justifying and accepting our respective behaviors.
So, when A asked me for a Rasam recipe, even though I knew it was futile to try convince her, that you simply don’t  go to a Mallu carnivore for a recipe like this, I tried. Until, she held me at gunpoint with her guilt trip fallacy (now, where have I seen that before?). So, I acquiesced, only with an evil plot at the back of my mind. I’m going to hold this against her, until she churns up some yummy Malpuas for me and I get to eat myself sick from it!!!  How’s that for a plan?


Though I come from an ancestry, that’s clueless about Rasam, I’ve lots of friends, for whom it is a staple at every meal. With their their help, I have been able to make a good version of it myself. This spicy sour clear soup, is made from lentil stock and one lead ingredient, or a combination of them.  To name a few, tomato, tamarind, garlic, ginger, lemon, pineapple or chili can be used.
The recipe for the bulk Rasam Powder is from my friend D, a die hard Kannadiga and a born cook. I say born, because I’ve watched her cook from a very young age. Even as young teens, while we hung out at each other places on rainy days, instead of doing the usual stuff youngsters do at that age, she used to cook for me. And since my greed for food is inborn too ;), I enjoyed it.  With D’s evident years of cooking experience, you can rest assured that the recipe would be as perfect as it can get!

Rasam Spice Mix (Rasam powder)

If you want to make a bigger quantity of the mix to last for later, follow these proportions

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp pepper corns 
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
3/4 cup coriander seeds
1/3 tsp cinnamon clove spice mix
3 tbsp dry red chili powder
3 tbsp paprika(key ingredient that gives the rich red color)
3 sprigs of curry leaves

The following proportions can be used if you want to make fresh spice mix on the fly

1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp pepper corns
1/5  tsp fenugreek seeds 
1 tsp coriander seeds
a pinch of cinnamon clove spice mix
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika (key ingredient that gives the rich red color)
3 – 4  curry leaves


Dry roast all the ingredients individually (except the cinnamon clove spice mix and chili powders), grind all the ingredients together to a smooth powder. If you are making the bulk quantity, store it in an air tight container to use later.

Tomato Rasam

Traditionally for Rasam, the cooked dal is filtered and only the clear stock is used. The residue dal, is kneaded into the dough for the rotis, or seasoned with mustard and chilies to form a separate dish. I however, mash up the dal and retain it in my  rasam. If you wish to use only the clear stock of the dal, then double the quantity of the dal in the below recipe.


1/4 cup tuvar dal/ lentils (pigeon pea)
2 plump and ripe tomatoes
11/2 tsp rasam powder (or however much spicy you want the rasam to be)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
5- 6 curry leaves
a pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 lemon sized ball of pitted tamarind soaked in warm water and pulp extracted
1 – 2 tsp jaggery shavings
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp grated coconut (optional)
2 tbsp clarified butter /ghee
salt to taste


  • If you plan on retaining the dal in the Rasam, pressure cook dal with 11/2 cup water, tamarind extract, turmeric and whole tomatoes together. Peel the skin of the cooked tomatoes and mash them up with the dal until there are no lumps,

    If you plan on using just the stock of the dal then, pressure cook the dal separately, drain out the stock and in it, cook peeled and crushed tomatoes along with turmeric and tamarind extract

  • Add rasam powder, jaggery and add more water to get desired consistency and bring it to boil. Put off the flame.
  • Heat a little ghee in a small pan and add asafoetida, mustard, cumin and curry leaves.
  • When the mustard pops, switch off the flame and  pour the seasoning over the  Rasam.
  • Garnish with cilantro and grated coconut.

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