There's one reason why Chennai's foodies look forward to the Annual Carnatic Music season that typically runs from mid-December to early January - the Sabha canteen. Each year, vegetarian wedding caterers showcase their culinary repertoire. This year's music season was impacted by the pandemic but some of the popular caterers like Mountbatten Mani Iyer offered a 'full meals' experience on the traditional banana leaf. One of the more interesting dishes I tried was a watermelon rasam that reminded me of another fruit-based rasam that is also believed to have been introduced by wedding cooks decades ago.
While most rasams are mixed with rice, there are some like the pineapple rasam that work equally well as a 'drinking' rasam that is served before a meal like an aperitif. This is one of my favourite rasams and is perfect for a winter's day with its sweet, mildly spicy and sour flavour profile. I've tried making a variation with kiwi fruit but it doesn't quite beat a pineapple rasam:
Pineapple Rasam - recipe
Pineapple: half medium-sized (use well-ripened pineapple)
Tomatoes: 2 large (use juicy tomatoes)
Rasam powder: half teaspoon (optional)
Peppercorns: three-fourth teaspoon
Jeera: 1 teaspoon
Curry leaves: a few sprigs
Coriander: a few sprigs
Salt: to taste
Mustard seeds: three-fourth teaspoon
Asafoetida: a pinch
Red chilli: 1
Tur dal: 3 tablespoons
Blend the jeera and pepper to a fine powder.
Pressure cook the dal to a soft consistency with a pinch of turmeric.
Blend half the pineapple to a paste, chop the other half into small cubes.
Blend one tomato into a puree and finely chop the other one.
Bring the pineapple paste, tomato puree to boil on a low flame with salt, half of the jeera-pepper spice mix and add rasam powder (I don't use rasam powder for this recipe but some wedding cooks recommend it for the flavour). Add the mashed dal and bring to boil.
In a separate pan, temper mustard seeds, curry leaves, chopped red chillies (you can add more than 1 if you like it spicier) in ghee, and fry the tomato and pineapple for 2-3 minutes before you toss it into the rasam (above).
Irulli Rasam/Onion Rasam - recipe
I tried this rasam at a friend's house in Bengaluru for dinner on a pleasant winter night. Irulli is the Kannada word for onion. While this is an ingredient that is rarely added to a rasam, the shallots give this rasam its unique flavour. Tomatoes are an optional ingredient in this rasam.
10-15 shallot onion
4-5 pods garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3 dried red chillies
1 spring curry leaves
Small gooseberry-sized tamarind
1cup coriander leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2 tsp gingelly oil
2 cups water
Soak the tamarind in a cup of warm water for 10 mins, extract the juice and keep it aside.
Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds & fenugreek seeds. Once mustard seeds splutters, add curry leaves, two red chillies split into half & crushed garlic.
Saute them for a minute or two till the raw smell of garlic goes off.
Add chopped shallots and saute till they turn golden brown. Add chopped tomatoes (optional) and cook till it gets mushy.
Coarsely grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and red chilli in a mixer jar. Add to the cooked onion mixture in the pan and saute it for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tamarind extract, turmeric powder along with salt and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.
Add more water, if required.
Boil on a low flame, add a pinch of asafoetida and turn off the flame as the rasam begins to foam.
Garnish with coriander leaves.
This rasam tastes best with steaming hot rice and fried potatoes or a mutton sukka.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.