Rasam is a thin broth, originally from Tamil Nadu, but it is found throughout southern India. It can be made with or without dal and can be served as part of a meal or sipped as a drink. I’ve made it with red lentils and have started to think of it as Lockdown Dal – use fewer lentils and more water to make it more authentic. Rasam powder can be bought in most Asian grocers but you can make your own.

I bought a wonderful book called The Udupi Kitchen which contains six different recipes for rasam or saaru as it is known in Karnataka. The recipe for rasam powder contains 3 cups of dried red chilies, 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida, 2 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, 2 tablespoons black pepper, 1/4 cup curry leaves, 1 1/2 cups of coriander and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder. These spices are roasted in ghee and ground up. As you can imagine, this makes a lot of rasam powder so you may want to reduce the quantities. It is also meant to be hot so don’t be surprised!

Here I’ve suggested using a tablespoon of rasam powder but I don’t usually add any additional chilies or pepper. There are no shortage of rasam powder recipes online and they come in many variations – you could try one from Veg Recipes of India, Swasthi’s Recipes or Tarla Dalal.


10 curry leaves

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

1 scant tablespoon of rasam powder

three tomatoes, ideally ripe

1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste

1/3 of sieve of red lentils

1/2 teaspoon of salt

  1. Put a litre of water on to boil. While you wait for it, wash the red lentils in cold water and chop the tomatoes up into small pieces.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium low heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds, followed by the curry leaves. Once they crackle, add the hing, asafoetida, turmeric and rasam powder – stir to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick.
  3. Add the tomatoes and a few teaspoons of water to prevent them sticking. Leave to cook over a low heat until the tomatoes start to lose their shape and reduce. Add the lentils, salt and 500ml hot water. Add a bit more water as the mixture cooks and thickens. (As mentioned, a thinner rasam is more authentic.) Add more salt if needed.