Tomato Rasam – Pepper Water

A month dedicated to comfort food would certainly be incomplete without the South Indian staple, Rasam! A simple, unassuming dish usually made with tomatoes or lime, as the main ingredient & a basic but intoxicatingly aromatic rasam powder that can be freshly prepared in an instant without any hassle.

There’s just one basic rule while making rasam, boil the tomatoes well first until mushy, but once you add the rasam powder, simply wait few minutes for a white froth to form on top. At the first sign of tiny bubbles, turn off the flame & leave covered for 5 minutes before serving, to allow the flavours to blend in. Rasam should never be boiled after adding the powder.

Rasam is prepared differently in every South Indian home, some using tamarind as souring agent, others lime. Some like using cooked dal water to balance out the sourness while still some others who add an aromatic seasoning on top, others preferring to do without.

That’s the beauty of food, no should & should nots…simply tweak the taste to your palate.

As Thomas Keller beautifully puts it, “A recipe has no soul, you, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe”.

  • Want to try another rasam variation with Indian red plums? Check Plum Rasam recipe
  • Want to try another rasam variation with Paan /Betel Leaves? Check Betel Leaves Rasam recipe

Recipe for Tomato Rasam – Pepper Water

Ingredients (Serves 4 persons)

To dry roast on low flame & grind to coarse powder

  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cumin/jeera seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander / dhania seeds
  • 1 teaspoon toor dal
  • 1 teaspoon chana dal
  • 5-6 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  • 2 whole dry red chillies, broken

To Boil

  • ¼ cup toor dal, washed & soaked 30 minutes
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 green chilli, slit
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 2 cups water for cooking


  • 1 marble size ball tamarind, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
  • 1 handful fresh coriander leaves with the tender stems
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder / haldi
  • ½ teaspoon jaggery powder
  • Water as required

For seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds / rai
  • ½ teaspoon cumin / jeera seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon asafoetida / hing
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oil / ghee


  1. Boil the pre-soaked toor dal along with water, salt, turmeric, slit green chilli & chopped tomatoes for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release by itself. Open & churn well. Keep aside.
  2. Dry roast the spices listed & grind to a coarse powder. Keep aside.
  3. In a deep vessel / pan, add the mashed dal-tomato puree along with 2-3 cups water, a few fresh tender stalks of coriander, salt & boil well for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the coarse spice mix, turmeric powder, jaggery & tamarind pulp. Give it a good mix.
  5. Check for salt & add as required.
  6. Most important-a good rasam is never boiled after adding rasam powder as it can turn bitter. As soon as tiny bubbles start to appear and a froth starts to form on the top, give it a quick stir, turn off the flame. (refer video below)
  7. In a small tempering pan / kadhai, heat 1 teaspoon oil & add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the cumin seeds & hing powder as well as the curry leaves. Sauté quickly to prevent burning.
  8. Cover and allow it to steep for 5 minutes.
  9. Serve piping hot with rice, or drink it like a nourishing soup.
  10. I have added urad dal vadas & served it as Rasam Vada, an evening snack.
  11. P.S. The Rasam powder can also be added into the oil as a seasoning on top.


  1. This recipe can also be made without dal or garlic.
  2. Simply hand crush tomatoes and boil with 3 cups water, tamarind pulp, salt, turmeric powder and jagerry for 5 – 8 mins until mushy
  3. Add freshly ground rasam powder (with or without garilic) & chopped coriander leaves along with soft stems.
  4. Most important-a good rasam is never boiled after adding rasam powder as it can turn bitter. As soon as tiny bubbles start to appear and a froth starts to form on the top, give it a quick stir, turn off the flame.
  5. Prepare a seasoning in 1 tsp oil with mustard seeds, cumin, hing and curry leaves. Splutter and pour on top of the tomato mixture

Once Rasam powder is added, stir continuously until white froth appears and tiny bubbles form. DO NOT boil!

One thought on “Tomato Rasam – Pepper Water

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: