Toor Dal Rasam: South Indian Tomato and Tamarind Soup with Pigeon Peas

February 27, 2018

Toor Dal Rasam: South Indian Tomato and Tamarind Soup with Pigeon Peas - Indian As Apple Pie

I'M FEELING FEVERISH .... No, it's not because of the chilly Chicago weather. I always get like this when I'm writing a cookbook. Why my entire family collectively groaned when I told them I'm updating my first book, The Indian Slow Cooker, for release this fall.

All of you, however, should be smiling. Why? Because I will be sharing some recipes right here on my website. Some are new. Some are improvements on the old. All are ones you'll want to try. 

This week's recipe is Rasam. I originally showcased a recipe for it on page 90 of my second book, Vegan Indian Cooking, as a slow cooker recipe in a 3 1/2 quart crock pot. I still like the original, but wanted one that was a slightly thinner consistency and even more tart. 

If you have yet to try making Rasam, now is the time. It's a South Indian tomato soup that is made tart with tamarind and spicy with dried red chiles. The combination of these flavors along with cumin, mustard seeds, and curry leaves will give you a soup that is not only delicious and healthy, but at once satisfying. Eat it as a meal, or drink small bowls of it as I do between meals to fight off cravings. If you're looking to eat better in 2018, this is one soup you want to keep on hand. 

While there are many versions of Rasam out there, I like adding pigeon peas to mine for a dose of protein and fiber. And, if you are nervous that your family won't go for it ... well, my kids have been begging for hot bowls of it as a post school snack. And a good thing, too. You can only imagine how much we have around here after recipe testing this half a dozen times! 

A heads up, to make this, you'll have to have some harder-to-find Indian groceries. including a Rasam Powder. My guess is that many of you are dedicated to Indian food and have things like toor dal and curry leaves already. If you don't, plan a visit to my website for key ingredients and/or an Indian grocery store. Always remember, if you don't have the correct legumes - substitue what you have on hand until you get your hands on the right ones. Using the correct legumes absolutely makes your dish taste more authentic, but you can still get the flavor and a great end product using what you have. My advice as always - don't sweat it if you don't have it. Now, on the mustard seeds I would search for black mustard, but any color seeds will do. We gravitate towards black because we like that color in our dishes. The nutrition and taste will be similar from other seeds. Toor Dal Rasam
South Indian Tomato and Tamarind Soup with Pigeon Peas


For slow cooker:
5 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped *
¾ cup duhli toor dal (dried, split, and skinned pigeon peas), picked over and washed
6 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
8 whole dried red chiles, divided and broken into pieces
3 tablespoons rasam powder
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
7 cups water
1 medium lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

For tarka:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 pinches hing (asafetida)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 – 15 curry leaves **

1. Put tomatoes, dal, garlic, tamarind, peppercorns, 4 red chiles, rasam powder, salt, turmeric, red chile powder, and water in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 7 hours.

2. Blend with an immersion blender, in a traditional blender, or in a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix.

3. Meanwhile, on the stovetop, make the tarka (tempering). In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the hing, cumin, mustard, and 4 red chiles and cook until the mixture sizzles, about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves and cook until the leaves turn slightly brown and begin to curl. Be careful – the seeds and leaves may pop out – keep a lid handy to briefly cover your pan. Also, mix occasionally so the spices don’t burn. After 1 to 2 minutes, put the hot mixture into the slow cooker. Be careful not to take your eyes off your tarka. Spice burn very fast - you want them reddish brown - not burnt. Once that happens you have to discard your mixture and start over. 

4. Add lemon juice and cilantro. Mix well and serve hot. There is no need to remove any spices – they can all be consumed including the red chiles. I love serving this soup in short glasses garnished with grated lemon zest for parties.

* Note: Use a serrated peeler to most easily peel tomatoes. You can also make this soup without peeling, but this extra step will make for a smoother consistency. If you don’t have rasam powder, substitute 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, and 2 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds. Add these ingredients to your slow cooker before cooking.
** Curry leaves are not the easiest to find. You can find them at most Indian grocery stores. If you don't have them on hand, not to worry. Just omit them. So many ask me what a good substitute is ... I'd say there really is not one. I just don't add them if I don't have on hand. Once you do get a package, use what you can and freeze the rest so they don't go to waste. They will last about 2 weeks in your fridge before starting to brown. 

To make this dish in a 3 ½ quart (3.32 L) slow cooker, use 3 large tomatoes, ¼ cup toor dal, and cut the remaining ingredients in half. Follow the instructions above, using 4 ½ cups water. Cook on high for 4 hours. Makes 10 cups.

Anupy's Recipe for Rasam Powder, makes 3 cups

1 heaping tablespoon chana dal (split gram)
1 heaping tablespoon duhli toor (split and skinned pigeon peas)
2 cups coriander seeds
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
10 whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces
15 whole curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

In a shallow, heavy pan, dry roast all ingredients except turmeric over medium heat. When putting them in the pan start with the legumes so that they are closest to the heat. Cook about 4 minutes and transfer to a plate and cool 15 minutes. Add turmeric. Transfer to a spice grinder or high powered blender and grind to a fine powder. 



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