Thakkali (Tomato) Rasam

Rasam is a very watery main dish that is had as a second or third course in traditional South Indian meals. It is normally mixed with rice. In many other parts of the country, it is drunk as a soup. Making a good rasam is an art. My youngest aunt made the best rasams that I have ever tasted. Her daughter has made me rasam several times. Though very good, it was nowhere close to my aunt’s version. A rasam has to be light and flavourful. It’s very taste should set our taste buds tingling.

50 gms pigeon peas (tur dal, thuvaram parupu)
1 small ball of tamarind
1 tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
2 big, ripe tomatoes
A few coriander leaves (with stalk intact)
Salt to taste
For The Masala
1 tsp Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai parupu)
1/2 tsp black pepper corns (sabut kali mirch, kuru milagu)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
1 tsp coriander seeds (sabut dhania, kothamalli varai)
2-3 dried red chillies
For The Seasoning
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (sabut methi dhana, venthiyam)
Heat a wok
Add all ingredients for the masala and roast till a fragrant aroma emanates
Cool and grind to a fine powder
Set aside
Wash and cook the pigeon peas (perhaps 4-5 whistles in a pressure cooker)
Extract tamarind juice (soak the tamarind in hot water for 10 minutes and squeeze the juice out, adding more water if necessary)
Add the tamarind juice to a cooking vessel
Add salt, turmeric powder, ground masala and asafoetida
Bring to boil
Add tomato pieces and continue to boil for 8-10 minutes
Add the stock of the cooked pigeon peas (reserve the pigeon peas to be used in some other dish)
Add more water, if necessary
Bring to boil
Turn off the flame as soon as froth begins to appear in the rasam (do not boil)
Garnish with coriander leaves (just snip the roots off and add the coriander leaves with stalks)
Heat a small wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the fenugreek seeds
Roast for a few seconds and add to the rasam
Serve hot with a kootu and papadam and/or crisps

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