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|Alternative name(s)||Rasam (Tamil Nadu & Kerala), Chaaru (Andhra Pradesh)|
|Place of origin||India|
|Region or state||South India|
|Serving temperature||Along with parboiled rice|
|Main ingredient(s)||Lentils, tomatoes, water, tamarind pulp|
Rasam or Saaru is a South Indian soup, traditionally prepared using tamarind juice as a base, with the addition of tomato, and chili pepper, pepper, cumin and other spices as seasonings. Steamed lentils are added along with any preferred vegetables. Nowadays all the seasonings required are combined and ground beforehand into a rasam powder, which is available commercially.
It is eaten with rice or separately as soup. In a traditional meal, it is preceded by a sambar rice course and is followed by curd rice. Rasam has a distinct taste in comparison to the sambar due to its own seasoning ingredients and is usually fluid in consistency.
In Sanskrit language, 'Rasa' means Juice. It can refer to any juice but in Tamil simply rasam commonly referred to the one prepared with Tamarind/Tomato juice with added spices. Saaru (ಸಾರು) in Kannada language or Chaaru (చారు), in Telugu language, means "essence," and, by extension, "juice" or "soup". Historically, it was prepared mainly with black pepper and tamarind, both ingredients native to and abundant in South India in general. It is also referred to as SatruAmudhu (Tamil: சாற்றமுது) by Iyengars.
Sourashtras, an immigrant community living in Madurai from the 16th century, still refer to it as Pulichaar (Puli or Pulipu means tart (tamarind). Rasam is the basis of the Anglo-Indian Mulligatawny soup.This is only corrupted version of a Tamil word 'Milagu-t-tannir' (மிளகுத் தண்ணீர்) meaning pepper water (In Tamil milagu means black pepper and tannir means water). It is said that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose once commented that if he had command over the country, he would have declared Rasam a national drink.
There are different kinds of rasam, varying by ingredient:
- Thakkali Rasam - with tomato puree as main ingredient.
- Poondu Rasam - a healthy rasam made with Garlic.
- Inji Rasam - a healthy rasam made with Ginger.
- Mudakathan Rasam - a healthy green leaf rasam made with Balloon Vine.
- Lemon Rasam - a sour soup made with lemon juice.
- Nellikkai Rasam - a sour soup made with Indian Gooseberry.
- Murungai Poo Rasam - a healthy rasam made with Drumstick flower.
- Vepam Poo Rasam - a healthy rasam made with Neem flower.
- Few modern versions are : Pineapple Rasam, Apple Rasam & Beetroot Rasam
- Kandathippili rasam
- Bassaaru - derives its name from "basida saaru" (Kannada), which is the act of draining water from boiled vegetables/greens/lentils.
- Milagu Rasam or Milagu Saaru - known in the West Mulligatawny soup
- Jeera Rasam - prepared using Jeera and Tamarind
- Tamarind Saaru - with tamarind extract as main ingredient and without lentils.
- Hesaru Kaalu Saaru - Green gram soup.
- Parupu Rasam or Pappu Saaru - common variant made with pulses and tomato stock.
- Baellae Saaru - most common variety with toor dal, coconut and tamarind juice.
- Majjiga Saaru - soup made with seasoned buttermilk.
- Kattu saaru - kattu refers to the water drained from the cooked dal.
- Kattina saaru - a semi-sweet rasam using jaggery.
- Jeerige saaru - made with jeera, cumin.
- Kollu Rasam, HuraLi saaru or Ulava Saaru - a healthy rasam made with horse-gram.
- Mysore Rasam - a fragrant soup made with fried grams/dals.
- Kundapura koli saaru - made with chicken.
- Kottambari jeerige Saaru - made with coriander and cumin seeds.
- Kadale Saaru - soaked black chickpeas, coconut and ginger.
- Alasundae Saaru - black-eyed peas and potato, coconut and ginger.
- Vankaaya Saaru - eggplant and tamarind juice.
Saaru in Karnataka
Saaru (ಸಾರು) in Karnataka is different from rasam in Tamil Nadu, and chaaru in Andhra Pradesh. It has more protein, a thicker consistency, and more varied ingredients. Typically, lentils are set to boil along with a teaspoon of oil. Lentils are cooked with a curry powder known in Karnataka as Saarina Pudi (saaru powder), along with salt, jaggery, either lemon juice or tamarind pulp, curry leaves, oil popped mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida powder. The curry leaves are added towards the end. Most of the times, chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut are also added.
Kattu saaru, part of Udupi cuisine, does not use saaru powder or tomato. Instead, thogari bele (lentil), ginger, lime juice, ingu (asafoetida), curry leaves and coriander leaves are used. Kattu saaru is seasoned with mustard seeds and red chilli (Byadgi variety). Tili saaru, also of Udupi cuisine, is made by sieving water from plain rice cooked in an open pot. This water, which has a thick consistency, is known as tili and is sautéed with mustard, salt, asafoetida and chilli preferably in ghee (clarified butter). The Tili saaru is generally eaten with cooked plain or parboiled rice.
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- Arthur Anthony Macdonell, A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary