Karnataka-Style Tomato Rasam Recipe (Thili Saaru)
Light and Soothing Rasam
This lentil-based rasam features a specially blended homemade spice powder that imparts a unique aroma and flavor. Known as thili saaru in Karnataka, a state in southwest India, the recipe is quick and easy to make.
Traditionally, we make rasam when we crave something light—or when we are looking for something to ease digestion or soothe stomach-related issues. It's also a great choice if you're running short of time, as the recipe doesn't take much time to prepare.
Rasam's watery consistency is the key to this recipe. It can be served either as a soup or as a side dish with steamed rice and ghee on top.
- 1/2 cup toor dal (pigeon pea lentils), washed
- 1 to 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2-3 sprigs fresh curry leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3 to 4 cups water, to cook lentils and to prepare rasam
- 2 teaspoons tamarind, to extract tamarind juice or use store-brought tamarind paste
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, to prepare powder and for seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, or to taste
- 4 to 5 dry red chilies (I used byadagi and guntur red chilies)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
- 1 teaspoon jaggery
- Salt, to taste
- Wash the toor dal (pigeon pea lentils) and transfer it to a cooker.
- Add the tomatoes, 1 sprig of curry leaves, turmeric powder, and 1 cup of water. Close the lid and cook until 4-5 whistles, or until the lentils are well cooked.
- In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of tamarind pulp or brick, and soak it in water for 10-15 minutes. Then squeeze it, extracting the juice and discarding the fiber. Set aside. (Skip this step if you are using store-brought tamarind paste.)
- In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. Add 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns. Fry over low heat till the spices become aromatic.
- To the pan, add 1 to 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves 4-5 red chilies. (I used guntur red chilies to give spiciness and byadagi red chilies to give color. Use spicy red chilies according to your spice tolerance, and note that the black peppercorns will also give some spice.) Fry till the curry leaves and red chilies become crispy.
- Turn off the heat and allow the spices to cool completely.
- Once the spices have cooled, transfer them to a mixer jar and grind to a fine powder. Your rasam powder is ready. Set aside.
- After the cooker has released its pressure, open the lid and mash the tor dal mixture using a masher or the back of a ladle till smooth. Set aside.
- In a pan or vessel, heat oil and add 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds and 1 tablespoon cumin seeds. Allow them to splutter. Add broken 1-2 broken red chilies and a pinch of asafoetida (hing).
- Add tamarind juice and jaggery. Boil over low heat for 1 minute till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears.
- Add the mashed lentil mixture and mix. Add 2 cups of water and boil over medium-low heat.
- Add the cooled ground rasam powder, adjust salt, and add water as needed to adjust the consistency (rasam should be watery). Boil for 5 more minutes or till the flavors of the spice powder are well absorbed. Turn off the heat.
- Serve with steaming hot rice and ghee on top.
- Tamarind substitution: Instead of tamarind juice you can use lemon juice. Note that lemon juice should be added only at the end, after you've turned off the heat. Don't boil rasam after adding lemon juice.
- Coriander garnish: Finely chopped fresh coriander leaves makes an aromatic garnish.
- Lentil cooking tip: To make toor dal (pigeon pea lentils) cook faster, soak them in water for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Spice level: Traditionally, this rasam should be spicy.
- Consistency: The rasam should be watery, so be sure to add more water if it needs it.
- Rasam powder: You can prepare large quantities of rasam powder ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container and use it whenever you need.