Rasam powder is a spice blend used throughout India, especially in the southern states. As the name suggests, it is used to prepare rasam, a lentil soup flavoured with tamarind, tomatoes and rasam powder. Rasam can be served as a soup or mixed with rice. In a traditional south Indian meal, rasam with rice is served as the second course of a meal, between sambhar-rice and curd-rice.
Although readymade rasam powder is readily available in the market, most families have their own recipe for it and prefer to make it in bulk once every few months. The common ingredients in rasam powder are toor dal, red chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorn, dry curry leaves and turmeric. The ingredients are either sun-dried for a few days or dry-roasted (individually) till aromatic, and then ground in a mixer-grinder or from a professional miller.
If the ingredients are sun-dried before grinding, the rasam powder is added at the beginning of the cooking process, to boil along with tamarind pulp and tomatoes before adding mashed lentils.
If the ingredients are dry-roasted to boost the aroma before grinding, then the rasam powder can be added at the end of the cooking process along with the lentils.
How to select
• While rasam powder is readily available in stores these days, it can also be prepared at home.
• If buying readymade powder, feel the pack for lumps (a sign of moisture), check the seal of the package, as well as the manufacturing and expiry dates to ensure freshness.
• If preparing at home, buy good quality spices and sort them to remove contaminants before proceeding with the process of drying/ roasting and grinding them.
• As the name suggests, rasam powder is used to prepare a popular south Indian dish called rasam.
• It can also be added to curries, vegetable dishes, soups or stews toward the end of cooking to impart a typical south Indian flavour to the dish.
• A little rasam powder can be sprinkled on dry subzis made with crispy, juicy veggies like beans, capsicum, carrot, etc., to impart a traditional aroma to it.
How to store
• Store rasam powder in an airtight container and keep it in a cool dark place.
• If you have prepared in bulk, avoid opening the main container every day. Keep a smaller quantity separately for everyday use and keep refilling as it gets used up. This will help retain the aroma for longer.
• Since the rasam powder is added only in small quantities, it does not have substantial health benefits.
• However, the use of peppercorns, cumin and coriander are known to improve digestion and immune functions.