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Warming Up with Rasam

Here in Kerala, South India, the agni-boosting qualities of this thin, spicy soup are relied upon at large wedding and other celebratory meals. (Toward the end of the meal, as you lean over your banana leaf plate feeling full of the rich wedding feast, knowing you can’t fit in another bite, someone will come around and ladle rasam into your open palm to facilitate your digestion. Slurping it down, you soon feel ready for a taste of dessert!)

Rasam is a truly delightful example of how food can be medicine. Filled with the essential oils of aromatic spices, rasam can not only boost your digestive agni (fire), it can also open sinuses and melt away mucous.

During this holiday season in the West, the weather turns wet and cold. Holiday foods are heavy and served in over-abundance. So, to keep yourself in balance, try steaming up the kitchen once a week with a fresh pot of rasam, and let us know how you like it.

There are different ways to make rasam. This is the way Jalaja our cook here at Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women makes rasam. And I can tell you from repeated personal experience, it’s delicious!


VK- P+

whole black pepper – teaspoon
whole coriander seed – 2 teaspoons
cumin seed – 2 teaspoons
turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
1 dry red chili
salt – 3/4 teaspoon
tamarind paste with seeds – 1 golf ball-sized piece, soaked for 10 minutes in cup water
asafoetida paste the size of a large pea
fresh ginger –  1 inch piece, peeled
two Roma tomatoes – cut into chunks
1 fresh green chili
5 springs cilantro – cut into 1 pieces, including stem
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves (about 10 leaves), torn in half.
1 shallot
1 large clove garlic
coconut oil – 3 tablespoons

Prepare ingredients, by washing, chopping, etc. as needed.

Using a flat bottomed stone mortal and pestle (or a blender or food processor), add ingredients in the following order, grinding well after each addition:

  • fresh ginger
  • whole black pepper
  • whole coriander
  • cumin seed
  • shallot
  • garlic
  • dry red chili
  • green chili

As you grind, occasionally scrape mixture from sides back into center of the action.

Over medium high heat, heat a soup pan or cheena chatti (traditional Kerala-style small wok). Add coconut oil. Add black mustard seed, keeping a pot lid ready to contain the seeds when they pop. Stir in curry leaves and allow to fry in the oil for about a minute.

Spoon moist ground spice mix into the pot and stir.

Add tomato pieces and stir.

Sprinkle in turmeric power.

Pour in a litre of water and stir.

Massage tamarind pulp, pulling seeds to the side of the bowl with your fingers, and pour in all the liquid.

Stir in teaspoon salt.

Stir in asafoetida paste.

Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, covered.

Stir in fresh cilantro. Turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for a few minutes.

Serve hot and enjoy!


by Niika Quistgard, Director/Managing Director

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