Rasam is a south Indian soup that is always made with tangy tamarind and a mix of other spices. Tomatoes, lentils, and other vegetables are usually thrown in, and it can be served as a delicious vegetarian broth or added with rice. It was the inspiration for this recipe
So why don’t I call this recipe Rasam? Why “Indian Tomato Soup”? Why on earth is there a piece of chicken in the photo?
Well–three years ago, this recipe was inspired by a delicious rasam I ate at a friend’s house. The only flaw, I felt, was a significant lack of tomatoes, the few little pieces that floated around her rasam had captured my heart (well, my tongue) and I was hungry for more.
So armed with the determination to recreate the soup I brewed several horrible, watery, rasams. After about 3 months of trying, failing, almost succeeding, and finally succeeding…I inhaled the three roma tomatoes that floated lazily around in what my tongue confirmed to be a likeness of my friend’s rasam. But– I still wasn’t getting enough to chew on…I wanted a more substantial soup, the flavor intensity of a curry, the chunkiness of a tomato bisque, but all rasam flavor.
I now make this recipe so much that I have it memorized. This and my spaghetti sauce are the only two recipes that I have memorized. However, this recipe has seen more variations, without altering the basic recipe, than probably any other recipe at my disposal. This recipe halves, doubles, triples, etc. very easily.
I’m including the basic recipe below and then some of the variations below that. Probably the only “exotic” ingredient you’ll need to snag at your local Indian/Asian (and, occasionally, Mexican) grocery store is Tamarind paste. The curry leaves are optional, but that yellow curry powder stuff does not even contain curry leaves. So don’t substitute it for the leaves!
Indian Tomato Soup
- 1 Tbsp cooking Oil (Canola, Olive, etc)
- A few Mustard Seeds (optional)
- 4-5 Curry Leaves (optional)
On a medium heat, heat oil. The mustard seeds will start popping when the oil reaches the optimum temperature. Once mustard seeds pop, throw on curry leaves.
- 1 Yellow Onion, sliced
- 3 Garlic pods, minced
Fry onions and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- 1 14oz can Diced Tomatoes (canned tomatoes are always ripe, and take less time to cook)
Add canned tomatoes with juices, and cook another 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- 2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Cumin powder
- 1 tsp Coriander powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper, ground
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Add spices and mix until blended, cook an additional 3 minutes.
- 2.5 cups Water
Cook until water begins to boil. Turn off heat.
- 1 tsp Tamarind paste (I just usually stick a spoon until it’s halfway covered, and pull it out, but it is about 1-2 tsp)
- 1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Mix until blended. Eat with Rice.
Okra Kolumbu (Curry)
Separately, pan fry about a half a bag of frozen sliced okra pieces until they are dry–the goal is to make them not slimy (which is a problem when cooking Okra, they cannot just be added directly). Add the Okra in when you add the Diced Tomatoes in. Serve with rice. <-Crowd favorite (people always seemed shocked that they like Okra).
Japanese-Style Ramen Noodles
When you are done cooking the Rasam, transfer it to a food processor (be very careful when blending hot liquids…I wouldn’t recommend a blender) Blend to a smooth consistency, you can add a little more water to make it more soupy if it seems thick.
Return to the pan, plop in an egg (or two), break apart two packs of Ramen noodles and bring to a boil. It’s done with the egg and noodles seem cooked (about 5 minutes). Throw away those yucky spice packets.
Literally add whatever you are in the mood for… want chicken? Well, brown the chicken first, and plop it in when you add the water. Fish? Add little chunks of Tilapia near the end, and be careful when stirring so it doesn’t fall apart. Add green beans, baby corn, Portabella mushrooms chunks, or whatever you fancy along with the Tomato stage. If you do Tofu…I recommend firm tofu that’s been fried a little to add some texture. Serve with rice. Delish!