Having posted at least five types of rasam in Tongue Ticklers, it did not come as a surprise when a reader asked me when I was going to share the recipe for rasam powder, or did I use shop-bought spice mix.
Once upon a time before I learned that homemade is the best, I used to rely on off-the-shelf spice mixes beginning from coriander and cumin seed powder to pav-bhaji masala. I cannot pin point when the change happened but I think it was with the arrival of children that I became more conscious of what I was plating. Before that I was a hog. In retrospect, I think I caused my poor body untold suffering! Since the kids, I have been making my own masalas, whether it is garam masala, sambar powder, or bisi bele bhath. While on this topic, I must confess that I have never really developed a recipe from scratch. The South-Indian spice mixes are mostly my mother’s. Other recipes were developed using base recipes provided by friends, relatives, or from my favourite books, and random magazines.
Coming back to today’s recipe, it did not require any modification on my part. It is perfect as it is. It is my ma’s, and it is the one my pati used. It runs in the family, and I am thrilled to be sharing a heirloom with all of you. The heart of a rasam is the rasa-podi, the spice-mix that lends the watery soup, flavour and depth. Every family down South has its own recipe, handed down by generations. For the taste-test, I gave this to another friend, L. She used it to make rasam yesterday, and this is what she had to say; “The colour is exactly the same as my rasam powder. It is perfect, Harini. I often find that I have to add a dash of powdered black pepper and cumin seeds towards the end with most rasam powders, but this time, I didn’t have to add anything!”
When I asked her for the recipe, amma said, “Oh! Now you will want it in cups, teaspoons and tablespoons, right?” “If possible,” I replied. The next evening her call came through with the precise recipe. “I hope it is alright,” She said. Even experienced cooks can be as unsure as me, I thought to myself. “I know it is,” I said. “I am so used to fistfuls and not cups!” Amma explained. I am sure that is how most of us got our heirloom recipes, right? I have made it easier for you. I weighed and measured in cups as well. If you try, I would like you to tell me about it. I am sure amma would love to know too.
Recipe: Amma’s rasa-podi [Rasam powder, a heirloom tambrahm recipe for fresh rasam powder]
Category : Basic Indian recipes | Indian spice-mix | South-Indian spice-mix | Tamilian | Tambrahm | Palakkad Iyer | Grain-free | Gluten-free | Vegan spice powders
Yield: 1 + 1/3 cup OR 119g
Lifeline: Stays good for more than a year in the refrigerator, but best used within a month as, the flavours will lose their depth
with time, whether or not refrigerated
Coriander seeds / Saboot dhania / Kotthamalli vedai – 1 cup | 58g
Split pigeon peas / Tuvar dal / Tovaram paruppu – 2 tbsp. | 28g
Split bengal gram / Chana dal / Kadala paruppu – 2 tbsp. | 14g
Black peppercorns / Kali mirch / Kurumolagu – 2 tsp. | 8g
Cumin seeds / Jeera / Jeeragam – 1 tsp. | 3g
Dried red chillies / Sookhi lal mirch / Molaga vathal – 10 [I used byadgi variety]
Roast spices separately, till each turns aromatic. The pulses should turn pink. The peppercorns should begin to burst, and the colour will turn a shade lighter. Cumin seeds should turn a shade dark, not black. The red chillies should turn a little orange with specks of black.
Cool all roasted ingredients completely, and then grind, or pound together in a blender, or spice grinder.
Store in stainless steel or glass container only.
Care to be taken:
Do not add even a touch of oil.
My mother says that roasting ingredients might give colour and help them preserve for a long duration, but it will rob them off nutrition. She tells me that in ‘those’ days the spices were just dried in the sun for a really long time during day time so that they could be preserved, and then pounded. Roasting is simply an artificial method to achieve sunning. At least we can roast it to aromatic instead of browning as is done these days. Roasting to brown will add a deeper colour however.
Here is a photograph of the roasted spices, just to show the colour:
How to make rasam with this powder:
Tongue Ticklers has many types of rasam featured, and I shall keep adding more. Meanwhile try these: