Friday, September 05, 2008
it is not the climate that i am referring to.nor the glamorous filmstars.it is the quintessential south indian hot drink that goes under the the name rasam. taken in between sambhar and thayir sadam(curd rice),any south indian meal is incomplete without rasam.it has to be hot.both temperature wise and in chilli content.the andhraites excel in making their pappu chaaru as hot as as it can be. they also prepare theeyati chaaru(sweet rasam). made with dal without dal,the key to the taste of rasam is the selection of the spices.the numerous variations include-mysore rasam,tomato rasam,lemon rasam. pineapple rasam(a popular rasam in my family),vayppambu(neem flower) rasam(my favourite), drumstick rasam,baby onion rasam, ginger rasam,milagu rasam,buttermilk rasam and so on and so forth.
the story goes that once the mysore maharajah gave a banquet in honour of some visiting dignitary.his hebbar iyengar cook was a super chef. the chef's sambhar was so tasty that the kitchen ran short of it due to the huge demand. when informed of the stockout, the maharajah immediately called the chef and asked him to come up with something very fast.the chef who was at his wit's end got a brilliant idea. he very innovatively created with the sambhar left overs the now famous rasam. needless to say it was a super hit with the guests.
during the first world war when the british troops were stationed at bangalore,one evening the tamilian cook in the barracks' canteen prepared a soup for his 'saar'.the englishman found it delicious."what do you call it?",he asked excitedly. "milagu tanni soup, saar",replied the cook meekly. thus was born the now famous mulligaitawny soup,an anglo-indian favourite. it is plain milagu (whole pepper) rasam served with rice.
wow! what a rich melange of spices! asafoetida,mustard seeds,fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds.curry leaves and coriander leaves to top it all.with tamarind giving the required tanginess and split red gram,turmeric powder,ginger,garlic if you desire,coriander seds,peppercorns salt and ghee and even a small stick of cinnamon and rasam podi for added flavour,you can reach seventh heaven with your taste buds fully gratiated.no wonder it is called sattumadhu (sadam plus amudu), which means rice with nectar, by the tamilians.
simple to prepare and very high on the satisfaction count this simple mixture of tur dal water, juice of a small ball of tamarind, tomatoes( i like it in big chunks,though many prefer small ones),onion and garlic (for those who crave for that flavour),green chilli and salt with a final tadka(sputtering) of pepper,cumin and mustard seeds,split black gram and desi ghee(rarified butter),fenugreek seeds,methi and hing. it is a 20 minutes' job and when served piping hot can be savoured as a drink or mixed with rice and taken as rasam rice as it is generally done. one could also add vada to the rasam and make it a rasa vada,which i find the punjabis love.a favourite in wedding lunches and dinners,one needs a fair amount of skill and dexterity to manouever the rasam on a plaintain leaf.otherwise you could end red in your face with your neighbour looking daggers drawn for making quite a mess.
"in vain our hard fate we repine. in vain our fortunes we rail. on millagutawny we dine,or congee(kanjee) in bangalore jail." this was composed by an english prisoner during hyder ali's rule in 1784.as early as 500 bc,the aryans were eating "supa",a sanskrit word that described the extracts of cereals and various pulses which were later flavoured with ginger,pepper and pomegranate. the rasam has a long long history and loved by commoners,prisoners and kings. if you have not had this liquid appetiser, just don't wait. just get it and slurp. if you are one of those who haven't indulged in the finer things in life,this is your moment. embark on a journey of senses and discover the world of rasam.