Friday, January 23, 2009

Rasam – this is what makes the difference!

The Rasam is a traditional South Indian dish, the eastern soup. It is a daily feature in almost all Tamil households. Children love it. It is the best to have when you’re unwell. It comes in many flavours! Thakkali (tomato) Rasam, Elumichapazham (lemon) Rasam, Melagu Jeeraga (peppercorn) Rasam, Mysore Rasam, Pineapple Rasam …

There’s something about the Rasams that are made by professional cooks – it’s mind blowing! Sundaram Mama from Trichy has been our family’s wedding caterer ever since my mom’s elder sister got married. He has catered not just weddings, but also Sadhabishekams, General Poojais, Ayushhomams… He is a tremendously popular cook in his circle with a roaring business. His crème clientele included the late M.S Subbulakshmi. His Rasams are simply phenomenal, every single kind of Rasam.

Mum recently asked him why Kalyanam Rasams were that amazing, and his brother Sambu Mama, who is the group’s Rasam Specialist, shared the secret. A lot of you out there probably already know this, but this was news to Mum herself. They apparently finish cooking the Rasam, switch off the heat, freshly grind some cumin (jeeragam), mix the powder with a little bit of water and pour it on top of the Rasam. This simple step is what makes all the difference and adds flavour to Kalyanam Rasams, especially Sundaram Mama’s! I haven’t tried this yet, when I cook Rasam the next time, I’ll surely try this. You cannot get away with store bought cumin powder, it has to be freshly ground cumin.

Every household has its own trademark Rasam. Some people make just average Rasams, and some are phenomenal. My mum-in-law grinds her own kickass awesome Rasam Powder and that is what I’m stocked with. It’s the best Rasam Powder ever, and we’ll soon share that recipe here.

Till then, try out this little tip to make your Rasam more delicious.


  1. This sounds good. I will try it out tom. I usually temper the rasam by adding jeera powder.

  2. Oh no, apparently it doesn't have the same flavour. Only fresh ground mixed with water. I should also try. I knew about this for a long time but never tried. My mamiyar's rasa podi itself is high on jeeragam. I usually like more of jeeragam flavour :)

  3. yeah rumsie and vidya the stored powder doesnt smell as great as freshly ground one. This you can notice when you grind jeeragam, as they get broken down while grinding the delicious flavour comes out but then in the weddings they make rasam in large cales so grinding becomes easy. As for our daily use it does become difficult to grind justa spoonful of jeeragam to fine powder, so as an alternate we can try making them for one week. The other option i have tried is to dry roast jeeragam carefully and powder them when cooled and use this powder. the roasted powdered jeera also gives lovely aroma, and the best part is we can use this roasted jeera powder in many dishes not just in rasam. It can be used in soups,dahichats etc etc. Give it a try and let me know how it tastes

  4. Oh, roasted cumin is commonly used in North Indian cuisine. But I think fresh ground raw cumin powder mixed with water is what makes the difference, not store bought, not roasted. When I cook rasam next, I'll try it out.

  5. I tried grinding a bit of jeeragam in the chutney jar and mixed it with water, and woah, it is amazing! The flavour slowly seeps into the rasam, since the jeera is not roasted it takes a long time to cook in the latent heat of the rasam. And yeah, this is what mum-in-law's rasam podi smells like when it is freshly ground :) Don't you agree mom? Tonight's dinner for us is Paruppu Usli with beans, Parupillada rasam, Cut Mango in chilli and keerai :)

  6. equal quantities of tur dal,pepper & jeera ground to a rough rawa consistency can be added to the rasam just before tempering with mustard seeds & split green chillies in a tspn of ghee.