'Wonder cures', 'immunity boosters', our Internet search terms have changed over the past few weeks, almost ever since the Covid-19 threat has acquired significance. Even before these uncertain times, thoothuvalai (tutavalam in Malayalam) or Solanum trilobatum leaves have been a 'go-to' fix in many homes in Tamil Nadu. The quintessential grandmother's remedy (not just in my home) thoothuvalai rasam is a wonder dish to prevent common respiratory ailments, fever and common cold.
Thoothuvalai is a favourite among traditional medicine practitioners in many parts of India for its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties. While Solanum Trilobatum (or just solanum) is its botanical name it's also known as the Purple Fruited Pea Egg plant. This is one more of those natural remedies that some homes have forgotten about over the last couple of decades but is back in the reckoning as most of us look back to nature for remedies. The plant grows widely in India and parts of South Asia. It's quite easy to find in states like Tamil Nadu where the leaves are sold sometimes at vegetable shops or markets. The leaves (the thorns are removed while using this herb) are bitter and they are normally fried in ghee to reduce this bitterness. Even in South India it's easier to find this in ready to use powders that are available at organic stores or traditional stores.
Thoothuvalai has multiple health benefits but it's ability to fight fever and common cold that make it a popular hack for many home remedies in Tamil Nadu and the rest of South India. It's also a popular ingredient to combat sinusitis and asthma ailments. Making the powder used to be a laborious process but it's something you can even order online. Adding a small quantity of the powder to your everyday rasam is a simple method to add the goodness of thoothuvalai to your regular diet.
Thoothuvalai Rasam Recipe:
This home-style rasam does not require garlic and combines thoothuvalai powder with the goodness of ginger.
Tamarind: 1 gooseberry sized ball
Tomato: 2 (finely chopped0
Green chilli: 1 (slit). You could 1-2 more chillies if you like it spicy
Asafoetida: a pinch
Jaggery: 1 teaspoon (finely powdered)
Ginger: a big piece (finely crushed)
Toor dal: 1/2 cup
Peppercorns: 1 teaspoon
Jeera: 1 teaspoon
Mustard: 1 teaspoon
Curry leaves: a few sprigs
Rasam powder: 1 tablespoon
Ghee: 1 teaspoon
Turmeric: 1/2 teaspoon
Salt: to taste
Coriander: a few sprigs
Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 20 minutes and extract the water
Pressure cook the dal (about 15 minutes) with turmeric powder
Cook the tamarind water on a low flame as you add the tomatoes, green chillies, jaggery asafoetida, salt and rasam powder.
Mash the dal and add to the tamarind water as it starts to cook and add water (2-3 cups depending on how dilute you want it)
Grind the jeera and peppercorns and add to the rasam as it begins to simmer. Add the thoothuvalai powder and simmer for another 2 minutes
Temper the mustard seeds and curry leaves in the ghee and add to the rasam. Throw in the coriander once the rasam is done and cover with a lid for a few minutes before you serve.
You could make the rasam dilute and serve it like a soup or serve it with rice.
Thoothuvalai Chutney Recipe:
If you are able to get hold of thoothuvalai leaves (also known as keerai - Tamil for spinach) you can try making this simple chutney at home.
Thoothuvalai : 1 cup
Mint leaves : 1/4 cup
Coriander : 1/4 cup
Ginger : 1/2 inch piece
Garlic : 3 cloves
Black peppercorns : 1/2 tablespoon
Tamarind : size of a small gooseberry
Gingelly oil : 1 tablespoon
Salt : to taste
Jaggery : 1/2 teaspoon
Fry the thoothuvalai leaves. Then add ginger and garlic.
Add tamarind and then add coriander and mint leaves after the thoothuvalai leaves are cooked slightly.
Let it cool down. Add salt and jaggery and blend in a mixer)
This chutney can be eaten with idli, dosa or mixed with rice and ghee.
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.