I often order tomato rasam as a starter in Indian restaurants because I love the tomato-y, sour, super-spicy flavor of it. Seeing super-ripe, very flavorful tomatoes at the farmers’ market makes me think of it and this week I managed to keep Mark off the four large tomatoes I bought, so I was very excited to make rasam with them tonight. I based my recipe off Indira’s version on Mahanandi, though I also tried to make it taste like what I get at the restaurant down the street from us. To make it more like the latter, I think I need to spice it up a bit more next time, but this was delicious and Mark, who doesn’t normally like Indian food (what’s wrong with him?!) really liked it, too.
4 large, very ripe tomatoes
2″ piece tamarind
2 cups water, divided
1″ lump jaggery, or 1 Tbsp brown sugar
a few springs fresh cilantro, or cheat like me and used a lump of frozen cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 dried red chilis + 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (or whatever amount/combination gives the heat you can tolerate)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp asoefetida
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp oil (I used mustard oil)
Core the tomatoes.
Chop them roughly and place in large bowl (or right in the soup pot so as to not dirty a dish unnecessarily).
Here is what tamarind looks like when you buy it in a package. I think it looks like nougat. You can also buy tamarind concentrate, which I always have on hand, but since you have to squeeze the tomatoes I figured I’d squeeze the tamarind right along with them (as Indira describes).
Break off a piece of the tamarind and put in the bowl with the tomatoes. Tamarind purchased this way contains the stones of the fruit. If you feel one when you are squeezing, you can remove it, but you need not worry about it because the soup will be strained later.
Add a cup of water to the bowl or pot, wash your hands, then stick them in and start squeezing! Try to grab and squeeze some of the tamarind every time because it needs a bit more massaging than the tomatoes to break down. Here’s the bowl after a minute or so of squeezing:
Continue until the tomatoes are well broken up.
If the tomatoes are in a bowl, transfer to a large soup pot. Add the remaining water, jaggery or sugar, cilantro, salt and pepper, ground coriander and ground cumin, and chili peppers and/or flakes.
Meanwhile, heat a mere 1/4 tsp of oil in a small frying pan, then add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard seeds pop, then add to the soup.
Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. I like mine pretty sour and when it didn’t taste sour enough to me, I added some tamarind concentrate.
Place a colander into a large bowl (it doesn’t matter if seeds and other small matter pass through, so I didn’t use a sieve because they are so hard to clean) , then pour the rasam into it.
Push down on the tomatoes with the back of a soon or a spatula.
Remove the strainer and there’s your rasam!
You can eat it plain, or do as we did and put some rice in your bowl …
… and then add the soup.