Everybody goes through food blues, which is mostly due to moods or health reasons and one needs comfort food to bounce back. To soothe the nerves and bring back the zing factor, one needs a dish which can pep one up in no time. Being on a holiday, is no fun if one falls ill and feels low. I can recollect my hotel days and the food we served when some of our celebrity guests fell sick.
Most of them, be it Dilip Vengsarkar or Sunil Gavaskar, asked for soup. Once they tasted the rasam, soup was a forgotten chapter. Also, our southern men, be it Madhavan, Sivaramakrishnan or Srikkanth, are great fans of this concoction, be it molagurasam, Mysore rasam or nellikai/ pineapple rasam. The history of rasam is as interesting as the rasam itself. Rasam is also called chaaru, saaru or kabir soup, traditionally prepared in south India, with the base being either tamarind, gooseberry, lemon or tomato juice. It even caught the fancy of the British when they ruled here. Thus, mulligatawny soup or rasam became an international dish.
The Indian cuisine is closely related to Indian history, with each region developing a unique set of dishes, using diverse ingredients. Rasam was discovered during the Pandiyan times according to ancient tales. When the ruling king’s son fell ill, refusing to eat anything that was fed to him, a decree was sent out that a dish prepared which the prince would eat, would earn a bag of gold coin for the cook. Karunas, a humble Brahmin priest, decided to participate rooting for the bounty. He took it upon him to try his luck with a dish he had invented. He got hold of locally available materials and seasonal vegetables like lemon, curry leaves, gooseberries, pineapple, black pepper, salt, turmeric and ground them together before boiling it in water. It turned out to be an appetising concoction, and thus when the prince was served with this, he not only recovered, but made this soup a state favourite. Thus, gooseberry, pineapple rasam found its way into the royal kitchens and became a part of Indian history.
Thanks to the Portuguese traders who brought pineapple seeds to India from the Moluccas in 1548, and passed it on to the Eastern states, which profusely cultivated the fruit in their region as a symbol of good health and luck.
Pineapple/ gooseberry exotic rasam
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 5 to 6
Calories per cup serving – 210 cl
- Pure ghee-1 tbsp
- Pineapples – 1 cup chopped finely
- gooseberries/nellikai - 1 cup deseeded and grated or cut fine.
- Tomatoes – 1 medium size chopped finely
- Green Chili – 1 slit
- Jaggery – 1 tblspn
- Salt to taste
- Turmeric Powder / Manjal Podi – 1 tsp.
- Toor Dal / Tuvaram Paruppu – 1/4 cup cooked and mashed
- Coriander leaves a handful finely chopped
- Coriander leaves –a handful washed and chopped fine
For Rasam Masala:
- Rasam powder [dried coriander, red chilies, asafetida, toovar dal, channa dal, methi seeds, black pepper, jeera,all roasted and powdered – all 1 tsp each.
- Garlic – 3 fat cloves
- Option - use 1 1/2 tbsp of 777 rasam powder. If you do not have time to make fresh masala.
Tomatoes – 3/4 medium size chopped
Pineapples – 3/4 cup chopped
Gooseberries - 3/4 cup
Keep rest for seasoning
- Ghee– 1 tsp
- Mustard Seeds / Kaduku – 1 tsp
- Cumin Seeds / Jeera – 1 tsp
- Asafetida/ Hing / Kaya Podi – 1/4 tsp
- Dry Red Chili – 1
- Some of the left-over pineapple pieces
- Some of the gooseberry pieces
- Curry leaves a sprig
- Roast on slow fire all the masalas and grind to a mix. Set aside.
- Grind pineapples and tomatoes to a smooth puree and set aside.
- Heat 1 tsp pure ghee in a kadai. Add in left over chopped pineapples, chilies and tomatoes and give a good sauté.
- Add in crushed masala and mix well.
- Add in jaggery, turmeric powder, rasam masala, ground pineapple, gooseberry, tomato and mix well.
- Pour 6 glasses water and toor dal. Bring everything to a good boil.
- Once it reached a boil, turn the heat off.
- Make tempering by heating oil and crackling mustard, cumin, hing, dry red chili and curry leaves. Pour this over the rasam and mix well.
- Add in lots of chopped coriander leaves and mix well.
- Serve this delicious rasam hot after pouring a spoon of ghee on top.
Make rasam powder and store it in the fridge for fresh taste.
Always serve rasam in a copper or a mud utensil for the best taste.
Different kinds of Rasams that are made for different occasions
• Koli Saaru - chicken
• Kadalai Saaru - black chickpeas
• Venkaaya Saaru - onion
• Kattu saaru - lentils and Byadgi chilies
• Tili saaru - sieving water from plain rice
• Thakkaali Rasam - tomato puree
• Poondu Rasam - garlic
• Inji Rasam - ginger
• Mudakathaan Rasam - balloon vine
• Maangaa Rasam - raw mango/ semi ripe mango
• Elumichai Rasam - lemon juice
• Nellikkai Rasam - Indian gooseberry
• Murungai Poo Rasam - drumstick flower
• Vepam Poo Rasam - neem flower
• Kandathippili rasam - greens
• Bassaaru/Kattu saaru - boiled vegetables/greens/lentils
• Milagu black pepper---also called Mullagutawny.
• Jeeraga Rasam - cumin
• Pineapple Rasam/Beetroot Rasam - respective fruits/beet
• Puli Rasam - tamarind extract
• Hesaru Kaalu Saaru - green gram
• Parupu Rasam / Pappu Saaru - pulses and tomato stock
• Baellae Saaru - pigeon pea
The writer is a chef and author of Festive Offerings to the Gods