Authentic Rasam

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8 servings Medium
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Ingredients (11)

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 cups diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon white lentils ("urad dal")
  • 1/4 cup uncooked yellow lentils (pigeon peas or "toor dal")
  • 4-6 curry leaves


I’m using Chow’s recipe feature to note down and collect the recipes for my Asian family’s everyday food. This particular dish, for a clear tomato and lentil-based soup, is a staple of our table which we make once or twice every week. It keeps well and is delicious cold or hot. It is typically served over white rice, but you could drink it plain as a soup or serve over rice cakes (i.e., idlis). The smell of this dish cooking is really good!

You need some typical Indian spices on hand in order to make this dish. Don’t buy them at your grocery store! They’re usually much cheaper at the ethnic market, if you have access to one. Also, if you don’t have a pressure cooker or just don’t feel like cooking lentils for this dish, skip them completely or add a few tablespoons of raw ground lentils to the dish as it’s simmering.


  1. 1Cook the yellow lentils with plenty of water. I use a pressure cooker, but whatever method you use, they should turn out extremely soft with lots of liquid. I use a ratio of 1 cup yellow lentils: 4 cups water when using the pressure cooker. After cooking, blend the lentils into oblivion with a spoon. You want the smoothly blended effect of an immersion blender, though I don’t recommend mixing an immersion blender with a pot of hot, liquidy lentils! The end result should be very soupy.

If you can’t be bothered to cook the lentils, you can skip this step. To substitute for cooked lentils in this dish, you can grind 1/4 cup of raw lentils and add at the appropriate stage.

  1. 1Place a small pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When hot, add mustard seeds, cumin, and white lentils. Add the garlic and curry leaves, being careful not to let the mixture burn. If the spices or garlic brown too deeply, throw them out and start over.
  2. 2When the garlic is golden, add the tomatoes. Season with turmeric, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  3. 3Uncover and add 3-5 cups of water. Don’t use broth, or the flavor of the dish will be off.
  4. 4When the water comes to a boil, add 8-12 ounces of the lentil broth. If you are not using cooked lentils, add 2 tablespoons of ground raw lentils at this stage.
  5. 5Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. 6Add cilantro leaves, remove from heat, and ladle into bowls over white rice.
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