Rasam podi – How to make my mum’s rasam powder; an authentic South-Indian recipe

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.

Rasam powder, rasa podi, rasam spice mix recipe

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.

Iyer Rasam powder, rasa podi, rasam spice mix recipe

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

Ingredients:

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]

Method:


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:

 Today is Day 12 of ‘veganmofo’, and I never thought I would get this far!

How to make rasam with this powder:

Tongue Ticklers has many types of rasam featured, and I shall keep adding more.  Meanwhile try these:

Thakkali rasam ~ A thin tomato soup

Mint Rasam ~ A lean lentil soup flavoured with Mountain mint

Molagu Rasam ~ Mulligatawny Soup

Mysore Rasam

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Comments

Have your say

  1. “Oh! Now you will want it in cups, teaspoons and tablespoons, right?” and ”I am so used to fistfuls and not cups!”
    Exactly what i hear from my mom, aunts anyone when i ask for such recipes. They still will show you in measures of the hand.
    One addition to the above will be a piece of Salem finger turmeric (the long variety) and in recent days some dry curry leaves as I was not getting fresh ones in some places.
    How many ever powders you may have, home made basics have that extra aroma added, don’t they?

    • Ha ha! Absolutely, Lata! I add turmeric and curry leaves while cooking. I guess there will be regional variations. I add sesame seeds (unroasted) too, but here I wanted to share the original recipe that amma uses. Til is for calcium. 🙂

  2. Fantastic recipe Harini and beautiful photography!! 🙂

  3. I am so happy that some of ,my favorite bloggers are sharing their family Rasam powder recipes 🙂 Can’t wait to try this!

  4. thank you Harini and thank you to your mom for sharing this recipe.
    So, you make your own pav bhaji masala too. wow! I have only used readymade and of course I didn’t use it only for pav bhaji 😀
    but now that you write I might dare to make one on my own. The thing is the last time I tried making a rasam powder it didn’t turn out good, maybe bcause I used less chillies and black pepper than demanded by the recipe. And it wasn’t for the first time. And I knew the mistake lied either in my measures or the recipe. So, I’m always afraid to try out recipes which I cannot consult someone. I will come back to you when I get time to make it. thanks a lot!

    • My pav bhaji masala is in experimental stage. I tried using ingredients printed on packs but it is so far nowhere near the one I like. IF I am able to break the code, it will be here. 🙂

  5. Dear Harini,

    I am going to make the rasam powder today. I have a question though, in your receipe, you have written :-

    Split pigeon peas / Tuvar dal / Tovaram paruppu – 2 tbsp. | 28g
    Split bengal gram / Chana dal / Kadala paruppu – 2 tbsp. | 14g

    Both have 2 tbsp but grams are not the same. Could you please correct the measurements.

    Thanks
    Monica

    • Hi Monica, the measurements are right. Chana dal is bigger and heavier as compared to tuvar dal and therefore in volume while they measure the same, the measure by weight may be different. However I will check up the weights again. Thanks for opting to use the recipe. Please leave a feedback when you finish making it.

  6. Thank you for a lovely recipe.
    But I am a novice at cooking in general and no nothing about south Indian cooking in particular so please bear with me.

    As you mentioned that your Mom suggested that roasting was done to replace sunning. The tuvar dal and the chana dal that is added to the recipe, is it traditionally washed or soaked after buying and then dried in the sun and stored.
    I ask because we always wash dals before using them and plus now there’s the concept of phytic acid going around.

    • Durga,welcome! I am not sure about of the treatment of legumes traditionally. When I mentioned ‘spices’ I meant coriander seeds and other ingredients and not the dals. I am aware of the phytic acid issue but as long as we have a balanced diet I wouldn’t worry unduly. That said, I am not authority on the subject. I usually wash and allow the dal to soak for a while before cooking. I feel it cooks well that way.

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