When I was still under employment, my colleagues and I would occasionally flock to this Indian economy rice place in Damansara Utama. People would line up outside their little stall for their array of dishes like fried chicken, fish, curries and typical Indian vegetables. I won’t say that it was THE best, but it was one of the more affordable eating places. And what I like about that place was, they give free rasam. Rasam is a South Indian soup cooked with a variety of spices. There’s so many spices in it I don’t even know where to start.
I’m not an expert in rasam….actually I’m no expert in Indian cooking at all….but I try. I literally followed this recipe I found in Foodgawker but I was a bit stumped by some of the ingredients like asafoetida and powdered jaggery. I did manage to find the asafetida in shops. It smells and tastes a bit sour-y, like lime leaves. I can’t put my finger on its desciption but after doing a search, I found it’s made out of a type of plant in the same family as Apiaceae (parsley family). Asafoetida comes in either powder form or a block form. What you want is the powder type. If you want to find out more about this spice, click here.
I was very happy when I found asafoetida but I had no luck with powdered jaggery. Do not despair though, if you visit the local Indian spice shops, I’m sure they have it there. But to show you some photos;
If I’m not mistaken, powdered jaggery is made from
Gula Merah (literally; Red Sugar)
The rasam came out as everything I had hoped and it took me back to the days of sitting near the economy rice stall, eating the Indian rice and sipping good, warming rasam from a stainless steel cup. Although the recipe was taken literally from the said website, I’ve narrowed it down into groups for easy reference because when I was making this soup, I struggled to read the ingredients over and over to make sure I didn’t leave something out. Cooking this soup made me sweat literally but so worth it in the end.
Taken from https://nashplateful.blogspot.com
¼ cup pigeon peas or split yellow lentils (toor dhal), rinsed
7 cups water, or more per preference
3 large tomatoes, pureed in blender
Pound in a pestle and mortar;
2 small shallots, crushed
6 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ginger, crushed
Cook in oil;
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 sprigs of curry leaves
4 dry red chilies, broken into two
¼ cup coriander leaves (save some for later)
2 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon asafetida
½ teaspoon white pepper powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
Chilli powder, if you like it spicier
Tamarind paste or pulp, soaked in 1 cup warm water and strained of seeds
Juice of ½ a lime, or to taste
Salt to taste
½ tablespoon powdered jaggery, or to taste (I left this out)
1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender, dish and set aside. Crush ginger, garlic and shallots using a mortar and pestle into a pulpy mush.
2. Cook dhal in 4 cups water until very soft and mushy; then pulse it in a blender but not too mushy. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a large deep pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds and fry till they splutter. Tip in curry leaves, chilies and few coriander leaves and toss everything together for 5 seconds.
4. Add the pounded ginger, garlic and shallots and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Now add all the powders; asafoetida, pepper, turmeric and coriander. Stir until fragrant.
5. Tip in tomato puree and tamarind water and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour in mashed dhal, season, and cook for 6 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and dilute the soup by adding 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick/thin you prefer it.
6. Drizzle with the lime juice, tip in the jaggery, scatter with the remaining coriander leaves, and then simmer for 10 more minutes, until it starts to froth. Finally, taste and season with salt and a touch more lime juice, if you like. If you like it with a bit of kick, add some chilli powder.
7. Serve hot. Give it a quick stir before ladling as the ingredients tend to settle to the bottom.