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Vegan Indian Recipes - Bread, Rice and Sauces
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Rasam
from Tandy Warnow

A South Indian item. This recipe is taken from Madhur Jaffrey's "Vegetarian Cooking".

  • 1/2 cup toovar dal (also called toor dal)
  • 2 quarter-size slices ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 pound tomatoes chopped (roma tomatoes are best)
  • 4 tps. tamarind paste
  • 2.5 tsp.salt
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1.5 tbs. curry leaves
  • 10-15 fresh Chinese parsley (aka coriander)
  • generous pinch asafetida
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 3/4 tsp. whole black mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. whole cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. urad dal
  • 2 tsp. fresh Chinese parsley, chopped
(1) Put toor dal, 4 cups water, ginger, and 1/4 tsp. turmeric in to boil; simmer for 1.5 hours. Mash. let sit for 10 minutes. (Can do this fast in a pressure cooker if you like.)

(2) Combine tomatoes, tamarind paste, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, salt, 5 garlic cloves, red pepper, 1 tbs. curry leaves, chinese parsley, asafetida, ground cumin and coriander, and 4 cups water in a new pot. Bring to a boil. cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. (We never let it simmer for more than 15 minutes.)

(3) Take a cup of the dal water and add to the tomato pot. Then take 1/4 cup of thick dal, mash it, add to tomato pot. Strain this mixture through a sieve, extracting as much liquid as you can. (We don't do this at all. We just combine the dal water with the tomatoes and spices).

(4) Put strained liquid in a pot and bring to boil. Cover, and turn off heat.

(5) Put the oil in a small skillet and heat over a medium flame. When hot, put in the remaining 2 cloves garlic, mustard seeds, whole cumin seeds, urid dal, 1/2 tbs. curry leaves, and after a few seconds pour these contents into the hot soup (strained liquid), and cover immediately. Let sit for 5 minutes, strain and serve with chopped chinese parsley.

NOTES Additional comments (Mine): The way we make it at home is much faster, easier, but may not be as delicious. It certainly is at least as authentic, since Rasam is a South Indian preparation, and Madhur Jaffrey is a North Indian. You can use the same ingredients as she suggests, but don't bother to strain the tomatoes, dal paste, etc. The important thing is to use good tomatoes, very firm fleshed roma tomatoes for example. Also, use enough tamarind paste to make the rasam somewhat sour.
The coriander leaves (aka cilantro or chinese parsley) add a lot of flavor at the end. She describes at the end of her recipe a way to "season" the rasam. This means adding fried spices. We do this but only use the mustard seeds, and sometimes a few curry leaves. The way to do this well is to use a metal spoon -- a bit stainless steel one which you can put directly over the heat, and hold the handle of without getting burnt.
In this spoon we put a tablespoon of oil or less, and let it get quite hot, almost but not quite smoking. Only when it is very hot do you add the spices, since the mustard seeds will only pop (or "burst") if added when the oil is very hot. As soon as they start popping (5-10 seconds) take the spoon off the heat, and add the contents of your spoon to the rasam.

This is eaten mixed with rice and whatever vegetables you've cooked. It can be eaten separately, but that's very rare. Probably only for invalids.