I’m one of a rare breed within my Palakkad Iyer community. I don’t like Rasam! This is so unusual that I cannot tell you the number of times it raises eyebrows. My daughter on the other hand, absolutely loves her Rasam. Her favourites include Tomato Rasam and Garlic Rasam, and most recently this Plum Rasam.
If you’re new to Rasam, it is a Tamil lentil based spicy and tangy pungent broth like dish. Rasam is usually eaten with rice, vegetables and crisp pappads, but it can be drunk like soup. Rasam means “essence”. It can also mean enjoyment and juice, depending on the context. Rasam usually has very little vegetable in it, and when it does it usually is pulpy. The flavour in Rasam can come from anything that fits well with a spicy-savoury-tangy flavour profile. You can find versions of Rasam across South India.
Plums grow in India in areas enjoying temperate climate. So plums grow in the Indian states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir. They also grow in the cooler climes of the Nilgiri hills in South India. We enjoy a very a short season of plums and I don’t always see them here at the stores.
I did get a couple of kilos this year and was looking for ways to use them up. I’m the only one in my home who likes plum as fruit. I generally have to disguise them to get my husband and daughter to eat them. A couple of friends, Niv and Deepa, suggested Plum Rasam when I asked for recipe ideas. Ripe plums here tend to be juicy, a bit sour and sweet and perfect for the Rasam flavour profile.
I have made this Rasam pretty much like I make Tomato Rasam. A couple of plums are cooked in water, skinned and pulped. Another two plums are quartered and cooked with the pulp in a tangy tamarind and lentil based liquid and Rasam spices. It is finished with a tempering of a couple of spices in ghee. Plums make for a Rasam that can only be described as delicious, at the risk of sounding repetitious.
For the Rasam :
- 4 ripe plums
- A marble sized round of tamarind
- 1 large sprig curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 gram cup well-cooked mushy redlentils tuvar
- 1 1/2 tsp powdered jaggery
- 1 1/4 tsp rasam powder
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
For the Tempering :
- 1 1/2 tsp ghee
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
- Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water for about 15 minutes. Rub well you’re your fingers and extract the tamarind pulp. Keep aside. Make a small cut on the skin of two of the plums. Boil them in about 3/4 cup of water. This will take about 5 minutes because they cook very quickly. Do not the discard the water in which the plums were boiled. Let them cool. Peel the skin and discard with the stone.
- Smoosh the pulp of the cooked plums with your fingers and strain into a saucepan. Discard the fibre. Add the pink coloured water in which the plums were boiled, to the saucepan. Also add the tamarind pulp, turmeric, salt and curry leaves.
- Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium. Let the tamarind-plum liquid simmer for about 10 minutes till the raw smell of tamarind disappears.
- Cut the remaining two plums into quarters and discard the stones. Add them, the mushy well-cooked dal and add another 1/4 cup of water to the saucepan. If the Rasam look a little thick add a little more water. Rasam should have the consistency of a thin soup.
- Simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes till plums are soft. Add the rasam powder and powdered jaggery. Taste and adjust to taste. You should have a good balance of somewhat spicy, slightly sour, salty and slight sweetness. Do not cook the Rasam for more than 3 to 5 minutes after adding the Rasam powder.
- Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and take the saucepan off the heat. Heat the ghee in a tempering pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, mix in the asafoetida powder. Take it off the heat and pour into the Rasam.
- Serve hot with rice, a dry vegetable curry and papads.