As the weather begins to cool down and Desi comes down with a cold, I can be sure — before the first achoo! — that there’s a request coming for Garlic Rasam, a spicy and aromatic lentil soup that’s one of the most potent weapons to fight colds in a south Indian kitchen. It’s so effective, chicken soup would turn sour with envy.I got my flu vaccine at work the other day, after many years, mainly because with a little one in the house who’s a germ magnet, I spent most of last winter fighting off a succession of colds. But within a few hours of getting the vaccine, I started to feel rather sick — a common enough reaction to the flu vaccine. After muttering all weekend and swearing off vaccines for good, I got a good old craving of my own for some garlic rasam. So sniffles and all, I went into the kitchen and cooked it up.
My garlic rasam combines some really powerful ingredients, all known to fight colds and comfort you. There are antioxidants here like turmeric, garlic and ginger. Vitamin C-packed tomatoes, limes and coriander. Some green chili pepper to get those nasal passages cleared. And lentils to fill you up with healthy, healing protein. The spices in the rasam powder also help warm up your belly, making you all cozy inside.
Rasam is usually eaten with rice and a side of potato curry (although I served it with a simple cabbage curry this time) and poppadums, but you can swig it straight out of the glass or spoon it up from a bowl if you wish. You’ll feel better, no two ways about it.
Garlic Rasam, an aromatic lentil soup
- 1/4 cup split pigeon peas tuvar dal
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafetida hing
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 moderately hot green chili pepper like jalapeno, minced
- 2 leaves sprigs of curry about 24 leaves
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves
- 1/2 tbsp tamarind extract
- 2 medium tomatoes diced
- 2 teaspoons heaping rasam powder you can also just buy this online or at an Indian store
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt to taste
- Cook the dal with turmeric in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop with 2 cups of water until it's really soft. Use a whisk to mash the dal up. Do not discard the stock.
- Using a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor, crush 2 cloves of garlic, the green chili pepper, and cumin seeds to a coarse paste.
- Crush the remaining garlic cloves slightly but let them hold their shape.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan.
- Add the mustard seeds and, when it sputters, add the asafetida.
- Add the cumin-garlic-chili paste, stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the ginger, curry leaves, coriander leaves, and crushed, whole garlic. Stir-fry for a few seconds until the garlic starts to very slightly change color.
- Add the tomatoes and stir-fry until they just start to turn mushy.
- Add the tamarind extract with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the rasam powder and continue to boil for another five minutes.
- Add the cooked dal/lentils to the saucepan with salt to taste. Bring the rasam to a rolling boil, reduce heat to medium, and let it boil for another five minutes. If it starts to get thick, add water. Rasam should have a very watery consistency, although if you prefer it thick, you can add less water.
- Check salt and add more if needed.
- Serve very hot over rice or in a glass or bowl.