Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mysore Rasam

Move away Nigellas and Jamie Oliver!

One of the first cookbooks that I had bought was Meenakshi Ammal's Samaithu Paar (Meenakshi Ammal's Cook and See). It is was first published in the year 1951 (wow!) and has been in circulation for more than 60 years. I have the Tamil edition though it is available in many languages.


The book had no glossy pictures. Infact its black and white and looks like a photocopy. I bought it for the primary reason that it covered the basics of cooking such as making rice, rough diagrams of cooking utensils etc. Yes. I was such a novice at cooking when I got married that I could not differentiate between dals and had to use the instruction manual that came with my pressure cooker. My disastrous experiences - with filter coffee powder mistaken as instant cofee, misjudged quantity of upma and pooris that were mistaken for papadams and chana dal misidentified as tuar dal and used for sambar - are stuff that will be retold in my house for ages to come. They will never let me live it down.

The book is written in a way that emulates how your grandmother / mother might instruct you. The dishes are vegetarian and what one would find in a typical South Indian household (with a touch of Iyer/Iyengar cuisine). 

Each recipe comes with easy instructions and multiple variations as well. Most of my daily cooking was and continues to be adapted from this book. A versatile book, one that I would recommend to be a part of every cook's library and a gift for every novice cook. It may not be a pretty coffee table book, but is an ideal   "ready reckon er. "

One of my favorite recipes from this book is Mysore Rasam. A delectable twist to the mundane rasam, it uses coconut along with the other usual inhabitants in rasam powder. 

Like all spice mixes, this rasam tastes awesome when the powder is ground fresh. But for the sake of conveniences, I have adapted the powder to stay in my fridge for a month. There is no mention of storage instructions in the book and I realized that its because the author would not have seen a refrigerator!!.

Recipe Source: Meenakshi Ammal Samaithu Paar cookbook


Tuar Dal - 1/4 cup, cooked and mashed
Tamarind - 1 gooseberry sized piece
Tomato - 1
Garlic - 2 pieces, smashed
Ghee - 1 t
Mustard Seeds - 1/4 t
Cumin - 1/4 t
Asafoetida - a pinch
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coriander Leaves - 1 sprig with the stem

Mysore Rasam Powder: 

Red Chilly - 6 or 7
Gram Dal - 1 1/2 t
Dhania (Coriander seeds) - 1 T
Black Pepper - 5 or 6
Grated Coconut - 1 T
Ghee - 1t


For the Rasam Powder

1. Roast all the ingredients except coconut under "Spice Mix" with a teaspoon of ghee. Just before switching off the stove, add the coconut and roast till brown.

2. Cool and Grind to a slightly coarse powder. This can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge.

For the Rasam

1. Add water to the tamarind and extract the paste. I zap it in the microwave along with the water for a minute and then extract the paste. Its easier that way.
2. Take the tamarind extract in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of water to it.
3. Add the cut tomatoes and smashed garlic and add the chilly powder and salt. You can also add a bit of your regular rasam powder but that's optional.
4. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the tuar dal and mix well.
5. Add a teaspoon of water to 1 to 2 tablespoon of the ground spice powder and add to the rasam. Bring to a boil.
6. In a small pan heat some ghee and add the mustard, cumin, asafoetida. Once it crackles, add it to the boiling rasam.
7. Garnish with coriander leaves and remove from fire.


1. Unlike the regular rasam, the mysore rasam contains coconut and hence cannot be left outside overnight.
2. Making the tadka (final seasoning) with ghee enhances the flavor of the rasam.
3. Just before placing the saucepan on the stove, taste the rasam and adjust spice or salt.

Note: This is not a paid review. 

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