Any standard South Indian dish that centres on plain rice is actually a four course meal, at least. First you deal the rice with sambar, and then it is the turn for karakkuzhambu (spicy curry) or morkkuzhambu (buttermilk curry) to do the matchup, Rasam comes third in the order before you wind up things with a spoonful of buttermilk or curd. Nowadays a break in the tradition allows people to go for karakkuzhambu first and trysambar next, but the latter two stick to their assigned order.
Samabar, karakkuazhambu, rasam and buttermilk are inevitable part of South Indian cuisine and a lunch without these is considered incomplete. Of all the four rasam has a unique place in the dining rooms and hearts of South Indians for its exceptional tang and inimitable aroma. The word rasam itself means ‘essence’ or ‘juice’ and it stands for ‘taste’ too. So it is an etymological high regard to this much loved South Indian Soup.
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The standard rasam’s ingredients are tamarind pulp, cumin seeds, garlic, dried red chillies, tomato and turmeric. It takes less than fifteen minutes to make the watery rasam. Right mix of the ingredients and the perfect boil of the mix are vital for a perfect rasam.
People unfamiliar to South Indian cuisine always find it difficult to eat rice when served with the runny rasam. This thin, spicy soup seeps out of your fingers and finds its way to your elbow spoiling your cloth; don’t have to mention about the embarrassment part.
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It takes time and patience to master the art of eating rasamsadam (rasam rice). Surely the taste of rasam will spur you to learn the art quickly. You have to be vigilant as rasam is served on the rice, in a quick double action you have to contain the soup from finding its way out of the banana leaf in tiny streams and mix it with rice in a gentle kneading. The mix of rice and rasam has to find its way to the mouth as quickly as possible. Here timing plays the important role.
There are varieties of rasam and the list is exhaustive with pepper rasam, tomato rasam, dal rasam, garlic rasam etc. Even after a non-vegetarian meal people look for a few mouthfuls of rasam sadam. The rasam addicts are growing in number now and these people prefer completing their rice meal just with rasam. These rasavathi (The one who is devoted to rasam – interestingly this word in Tamil stands for alchemist too) people are very captivated to rasam that they don’t feel ashamed and don’t hesitate to raise their glass in a public eatery requesting to fill it to the rim with rasam.
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