Tomato Rasam

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.

Tomato Rasam

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.


  1. kibbles Said,

    July 27, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    That is the most interesting recipe I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t expecting you to suddenly and magically get soup out of that thick tomato mash! What do you do with the leftover tomato stuff?

  2. Xiaolu Said,

    July 27, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    OoOo…I’m usually more of a sambar person but your rasam looks great!

  3. Courtney Said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    What?! Who doesn’t like Indian food?! Mark is crazy! Glad to hear he came around and enjoyed this one that you made 🙂 Indian food, here I come!


  4. Ksenia Said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

    I don’t understand why Mark doesn’t like Indian food….I love it! =D
    But I always must adapt Indian recipes because I never can find all the spices =( In fact, I have not found yet some of the spices that are usually used in Indian kitchen, like mustard seeds, asoefetida or plain turmeric (although I have almost a dozen of curries, but I don’t like any of them). And I have looking for them for a long!

    I have read many books of Carlos Ruiz Zafón and I loved them! =D Which one are you reading? I enjoyed a lot “La sombra del viento” (the Shadow of the Wind), the first of his big novels, but I didn’t like as much the second one, “El juego del angel” (the Angel’s game). Maybe it was too thick and had too many things…nevertheless, it’s a great book too.

    I have also read some of his less known books. They are supposed to be adressed to young people, but I don’t think they are only for young people. Actually, some of them had as much suspense and mistery as his novels.

    I am gland that you liked the pictures ^^ I always enjoy seeing pictures of other countries too =D

  5. renae Said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

    Kibbles, I just discarded it (and felt a bit bad about it), but it’d probably make a good base for some sort of tomatoey Indian dish, maybe adding chickpeas?

    Ksenia, I finished The Shadow of the Wind last week and immediately ran out and bought The Angel’s Game because I liked it so much. I am enjoying The Angel’s Game but I see what you mean about it having “too many things”, because when I was only about 100 pages in, I thought, “wow, it seems like I’ve read an entire novel already and I’m only 1/5 of the way through!” I like it though. I’m actually thinking about buying one or the other in the original Spanish and trying to read it that way, although I haven’t had Spanish since high school and that was a very long time ago. I’ve been thinking about relearning it, though, and thought that would be a fun way to do it. I haven’t found English translations of his other books but maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.

    If you want, I’ll send you some Indian spices. They are cheap and abundant here. In fact, in the Indian grocery stores, they sell spices in bags that are so big I can never use them up fast enough before they get too old and I don’t have room to store them so I would love to share them. I can’t believe they don’t have mustard seeds in Barcelona, that’s crazy! You should have my email address on your blog, email me your address and some of the things you’re looking for and I’ll send you a care package with a few things!

  6. Jes Said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    That looks like the perfect way to celebrate the tomato bounty of summer! Indian food gets me every time (I’m still working on finding my cute Indian boy to marry who has a mother who will love to cook for me…) 🙂

  7. Lou Said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the tamarind expose – I’ve often looked lovingly at it in the Indian shop and wondered what exactly…

  8. Ksenia Said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

    Probably Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s other books has just not been published in the USA. They are little know (and difficult to find. I borrowed them from the library) even here =S

    I would like to begin with French again too. I have been studying it for three years in school, but I have forgot it almost all >.< The subject was OK, but I hatedthe teacher.

    Well, maybe there have mustard seeds in Barcelona…but they hide them too well xD
    Would you really send me some spices? Wow! It would be wonderful. It’s difficult to believe that so kind people exist in this world *.*
    Of course I will send you my adress later ^^ Yay!

  9. jd Said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

    This looks really good… like one of those yummy, comforting kinds of dishes!

    However, I can’t believe I’ve never had tomato rasam before. I love Indian food, so I definitely feel obligated to give it a try.


  10. Ksenia Said,

    July 31, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

    I have realized that I don’t have your e-mail =O Although e-mail is required to write a comment, it is really “never displayed”, even to the webmaster =S

    I have an “e-mail me” link on the blog. Could you send me a message first, so I will have your e-mail too?

  11. Josiane Said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    I’d never heard of tomato rasam! Actually, I don’t recall seeing any kind of soup on the menu of the Indian restaurants I’ve been to, but now I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it. Thanks for enlighting me! I may take advantage of my trip to Montréal this weekend to find those spices and try it at home…

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