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Origin and evolution of Rasam along with its benefits


Rasam is a classic example of a traditional South Indian soup which is used as a side dish with rice in meals. Rasam is known for its medicinal effectiveness as an appetizer and a digestive beverage due to the use of tamarind as its base. It has a distinct flavour from the other South Indian platters due to its seasoning of sesame oil, tomato, pepper, chilli powder, garlic, coriander leaves, turmeric, asafoetida, rock salt, cumin, water, mustard, and curry leaves.

Rasam is known by different names in different parts of South India e.g. Charu (in Telugu), Saaru (in Kannada) and Rasam (in Tamil). In Sanskrit, “rasa” means juice and hence the probable coinage of the word “rasam” which is made from the extract of tamarind and tomato juices. The traditional preparation of rasam is made with tamarind pulp and black pepper- both abundantly and natively available in South India. According to some other historical sources, the origin of rasam is in Madurai and it dates back to the 16th century when the land was ruled by the Saurashtra rulers.

A bowl of steaming hot rasam is consumed in almost every household of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. But different clinical studies on this familiar side dish support its traditional claim (as mentioned in the ancient texts of Siddha) of treating a number of health issues. Rasam is a good antidote for common cough and cold, lack of appetite, headache and tasteless in mouth due to fever or digestive problems.

The rasam in Tamil Nadu is different in taste, texture and flavour from the saaru in Karnataka or the chaaru in Andhra Pradesh. Rasam is a light broth made from tamarind and tomato pulp seasoned with traditional Tamil spices. Saaru or chaaru has a thicker consistency which is made of lentils seasoned with Saarina Pudi or saaru powder and other flavouring ingredients. Some of the different types of rasam/saaru/chaaru are- Thakkali Rasam, Inji Rasam, Kattu Saaru, Mysore Rasam, Milagu Rasam/Saaru, Jeerige Saaru, Paruppu Rasam and others.  The permutation and combination of the spices used as seasoning agents for this appetizing broth determine its name.

Kerala rasam recipe

The unique flavour of Kerala rasam is due to the use of coconut oil and dry roasted spices for its seasoning. You can make this rasam by following these simple steps:

  • Soak some tamarind in ½ cup of warm water
  • Dry roast cumin seeds, peppercorns and whole coriander seeds and keep them aside.
  • Grind the spices with a few cloves of garlic and ½ inch garlic to make a coarse rasam powder.
  • Heat 1 tsp. coconut oil in a frying pan
  • Add a pinch of asafatoeda, a few red chillies, curry leaves, 1 tsp. mustard seeds and ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds. Stir fry all these ingredients for a while.
  • Add the rasam powder and add water to the seasoning.
  • Strain the tamarind water and add it to this mixture. Add some jiggery, salt and turmeric powder. Cook for a while until it comes to a boil.
  • Turn of the flame and sprinkle chopped coriander leaves before serving it hot.

 If you do not have the time to make the Rasam Powder, worry not. Order authentic south Indian style Rasam Powder from Sambar Stories prepared from recipes preserved over generations.


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