Spicy Lentil Rasam

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
As I have noted before, when I first started cooking Indian dishes, I would generally make dishes originating from the Northern region and those adapted for North American preferences. As I became a more accomplished and curious cook, I started to explore traditional dishes from Southern India. Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan has proved to be an essential addition to my extensive cookbook collection. Lots of beautiful photographs accompany recipes for sambars, rasams, poriyals, kootus, vegetable dishes, rice, spice powders, snacks and appetizers, chutneys and pickles and even menu suggestions. This book is invaluable to anyone looking to learn more about South Indian cooking.

Traditional South Indian dishes tend to have more steps, as there is often a paste and tempering step and lots of seeds and spices to measure out, but they are certainly worth the bother and some of the most flavourful and satisfying creations from my kitchen. I will also note the delightful aromatic smell that will warm up your kitchen.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a rasam is a thin and often watery dish, traditionally served as the second course of a South Indian meal. Tamarind, tomatoes, and lemon or lime figure prominently. I made mine a bit thicker and served it with Mustard Seed Rice for an especially satisfying and nourishing Indian dinner. I certainly impressed my dinner guests.

Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)

Slightly adapted from Dakshin

1/2 cup of toor dal (or red lentils)
1/4 cup of mung beans
1/4 cup of split mung beans
3 1/4 cups of water
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of turmeric
dash of cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
juice from 1 lemon
a good sized handful of parsley, chopped, for garnishing

For the Paste:

3 teaspoons of oil
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 - 3 dried red chilies
1 tablespoon of urad dal, washed
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida powder
1/3 cup of dried coconut
a handful of dried curry leaves
1/4 cup or water

For Tempering:

2 teaspoons of ghee, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
2 dried red chilies, broken into pieces
a handful of dried curry leaves

Rinse the toor dal and mung beans well in a strainer. Cover with water, and soak for a few hours. Drain the water, transfer the dal to a large pot, cover with 3 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal is soft - roughly 45 minutes. Do not drain the dal.

While the beans are cooking, make the paste. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, red chilies, urad dal and asafoetida powder. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a blender or food processor, along with the coconut, curry leaves and water. Blend into a smooth paste, adding a bit more water if necessary. Set aside.

For the tempering, heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop. Add the tomato to the pan, along with the turmeric, cayenne and salt and stir and fry until the tomato is thickened - roughly 5 minutes. Add the paste, stir and fry for another minute or so and then add this mixture to the cooked dal. Add another cup or two of water, depending on how thick you want your rasam to be. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 5 - 10 minutes.

Garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve hot with rice.

Serves 4

You might also enjoy:
Beetroot Rasam
Toor Dal and Green Bean and Pea Poriyal
Toor Dal Palak
Tarka Dal

On the top of the reading stack: 366 Delicious Ways To Cook Rice Beans And Grains by Andrea Chesman

Audio Accompaniment: Translucence/Drift Music by Harold Budd and John Foxx


ruchikacooks said...

Lisa, I love rasam so much, it is a regular at home. Spicy rasam looks tempting, will have it any day with potato fry!

Thanks for the entry.

Srimathi said...

Hi Lisa,

I think Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan is a awesome cook book. HEr recipes are very easy to follow and its good that you have started venturing into south Indian cuisine. I have tried her recipes and learnt a lot from her cooking style. Poricha rasam is very delicious rasam to have with rice. I hope you enjoyed it.

Kamalika said...

Dakshin is really had a good collection of delectable dishes...your dish looks srummy....

Annarasa said...

Yum, this dish looks very tasty!

notyet100 said...

comfortin this looks

Aparna said...

I am here (and at my other fave blogs) after a long time to find its rasam this time.
Not one of my favourites, but my family loves it. My daughter can have this for lunch for a week straight!!! :)

Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen said...

This sounds so good Lisa! You always make everything look so beautiful! :)