Defining ‘Rasam‘ is an almost impossible feat. This post does such a great job of describing its frustrating ‘indescribeabilty’ , that I won’t even try. However, one thing that is common to most kinds of Rasam is that hint of tartness. The ‘tartness agents’ usually used are tomato, tamarind, lime or some combination of the three. Now, before I get ahead of myself : Rasam literally means ‘juice’. It is a thinnish, tart, South Indian soup, usually served with rice, sometime with Vada (lentil fritters), or simply drunk, towards the beginning of a meal, from a steel tumbler. I enjoy Rasam with crispy Dosai/Dosa too, though that is not a very traditional pairing.
September is Ovarian Cancer Month and the O foods contest , organized by Michele of Bleeding Espresso and Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, is one of the events being held to create awareness about Ovarian Cancer. This the 2nd year that O foods contest is being held.
A week or so ago, I was loudly spewing out all the ‘O’ dishes I know. After confirming that I hadn’t gone mad, my husband joined me in this food incantation and suggested Orange Rasam. Now it was my turn to look at him as if he was mad. However, I was reminded that I had successfully made Pineapple Rasam (which is something of a south Indian ‘delicacy’), a couple times in the past. “So why not an ‘Orange’ version?”. After much deliberation and flip-flopping, I decided that my entry to the O foods contest would be an almost ‘autumn-y’ Orange Tomato Rasam.
Orange Tomato Rasam
segments of two oranges (I used tiny clementine oranges). If you are using larger oranges like valencia, you can use 1/2 to 1
freshly squeezed (clementine) orange juice:
a little more than 1/8 C to be added towards the beginning
a little more than 1/4 C to be added towards the end
the juice of 1 extra orange (just in case..:))
one ripe tomato coarsely chopped
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2.5 Tbsps Rasam Powder (See Note)
a piece of tamarind, the size of a quarter lime (or lesser); if you are using tamarind paste, use half a teaspoon
1/2 C of cooked toor/masoor dal (yellow pigeon peas/red lentils) [1 C of masoor dal takes around 18 minutes to cook in the microwave. Use around 2-3 times the amount of water and a pinch of turmeric while cooking. Use the required amount of cooked dal for the Rasam and freeze the rest, for later use]
a pinch of brown sugar (optional)
2 tsps oil
salt (to taste)
Method (Don’t be daunted by the number of steps. Each step is just a tiny instruction):
- Extract the juice of the tamarind by soaking it for 5-10 minutes in a cup of warm water. Discard the pulp. If you are using paste, dissolve the paste in a cup of water.
- Heat oil in a copper bottomed stainless steel pan (The kind you would boil milk in).
- Add the mustard seeds. Wait till the seeds splutter and pop.
- When the popping of the mustard seeds seems to be dying down, add the cumin seeds.
- Add the rasam powder and let it roast for a few seconds.
- Add the chopped tomato. Wait for a few seconds for the pieces of tomato to get a little mushy. If the tomato is not juicy enough the rasam powder might start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then either add little water or move to the next step without waiting. Also add 2-3 orange segments at this point.
- Add the tamarind juice and cook for a few minutes. Add 1/2- 1 C of water
- Add the orange segments and cook for a few minutes
- Add the 1/8 C of orange juice.
- Add salt and 3 cups of water (Depending on how thick or thin you want the Rasam to be. Keep in mind that the dal added later will make the rasam slightly thicker)
- Let this cook for around 10 minutes.
- After the Rasam boils, add the 1/2 C of dal and mix.
- Add the 1/4 C of orange juice. Taste and if needed add more juice
- Let the rasam cook for some more time.
- Taste the rasam again, and if you feel that the ‘orange taste’ is not coming through, add the juice of 1 more orange.
- Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a minute or so before switching off.
- Add a pinch of brown sugar if necessary.
It takes about an hour for the taste of oranges to really come through and play with the robustness of the tomato.
The Orange TomatO Rasam tastes pretty good drunk straight. But this is the best way to enjoy Rasam (As any South Indian grandfather will testify):
- Place a cup of rice on a plate
- Make a hole in the center of the mound of rice.
- Pour the Rasam into the hole.
- With your hand (yes- not with a spoon!), mash the rice and rasam.
- Grab a handful and eat, with the a trickle of rasam running down your arm
- Don’t forget to slurp!
Verdict: I really liked how the layers of sweetness and tanginess of the tomato, oranges and tamarind wove into and around one another. But, I might still play with the ratios of the three to figure out which best highlights the taste of the oranges. The tamarind and tomatoes lend an intensity to the rasam. I think reducing the amount of tamarind juice and/or eliminating the tomatoes would lead to a lighter rasam.
Note : You can use store bought Rasam Powder (MTR brand) or make your own. I used my grandmother’s home made Rasam Powder. Here is a recipe to make your own. The ingredients look similar to those in my grandmother’s.If you don’t have access to rasam powder and don’t have the time to make some- you can use equal parts of cumin powder, corriander powder and ground pepper, as a make-shift rasam powder.
Anti-Cancer benefits of some of the ingredients:
Oranges: Oranges are rich in citrus limonoids which have been shown to help fight several kinds of cancers (Source).They also contain flavonoids such as naringenin and hesperedin which, research has suggested, may have anti-cancer properties (Source). And of course they contain Vitamin C which acts an anti-oxidant, protecting cells from free radicals thus helping in the prevention of cancer (Source)
Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain lycopene which, some studies show, can help prevent some kinds of cancer (Source).
Tamarind: Tamarind contains many antioxidants such as carotenes, Vitamin C and flavanoids that help fight cancer (Source).
And here are the rules and details of the O Foods Contest:
O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.
There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:
ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato);include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
PRIZES for recipe posts:
- 1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen byGina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;
- 2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);
- 3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).
TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url toofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
Awareness posts PRIZE:
- One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.
From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:
- Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
- The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
- There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
- In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
- When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer. Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.