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Karnataka-Style Tomato Rasam Recipe (Thili Saaru)

Shwetha Bhat is passionate about food and cooking. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and share her recipes.

Karnataka-style tomato rasam (thili saaru)

Karnataka-style tomato rasam (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.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

30 min

45 min

3 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Wash the toor dal (pigeon pea lentils) and transfer it to a cooker.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Turn off the heat and allow the spices to cool completely.
  7. Once the spices have cooled, transfer them to a mixer jar and grind to a fine powder. Your rasam powder is ready. Set aside.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. Add tamarind juice and jaggery. Boil over low heat for 1 minute till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears.
  11. Add the mashed lentil mixture and mix. Add 2 cups of water and boil over medium-low heat.
  12. 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.
  13. Serve with steaming hot rice and ghee on top.

Photo Guide

In a cooker, add 1/2 cup of washed toor dal (pigeon pea lentils).

In a cooker, add 1/2 cup of washed toor dal (pigeon pea lentils).

Add 1 to 2 chopped ripe tomatoes.

Add 1 to 2 chopped ripe tomatoes.

Add a sprig of fresh curry leaves, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, and 1 cup of water.

Add a sprig of fresh curry leaves, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, and 1 cup of water.

Close the lid and cook until 4-5 whistles, or until the dal is well cooked. Switch off the heat and let the pressure release by itself.

Close the lid and cook until 4-5 whistles, or until the dal is well cooked. Switch off the heat and let the pressure release by itself.

In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of tamarind pulp or brick. Soak it in water for 10-15 minutes.

In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of tamarind pulp or brick. Soak it in water for 10-15 minutes.

Squeeze out the tamarind juice and discard the fiber. Set aside.

Squeeze out the tamarind juice and discard the fiber. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. Add 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns.

In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. Add 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns.

Fry over low heat till the spices become aromatic.

Fry over low heat till the spices become aromatic.

Add 3-4 dry red chilies and 1-2 springs of fresh curry leaves. Saute till the red chilies turn crisp. (I used guntur red chilies to give spiciness and byadagi red chilies to give color). Switch off the heat.

Add 3-4 dry red chilies and 1-2 springs of fresh curry leaves. Saute till the red chilies turn crisp. (I used guntur red chilies to give spiciness and byadagi red chilies to give color). Switch off the heat.

Cool the spices completely and then transfer them to a mixer jar.

Cool the spices completely and then transfer them to a mixer jar.

Blend to a fine powder. Your rasam powder is ready. Set aside.

Blend to a fine powder. Your rasam powder is ready. Set aside.

Once the pressure of the cooker has released, open the lid.

Once the pressure of the cooker has released, open the lid.

Mash the dal mixture using a masher or the end of a ladle.

Mash the dal mixture using a masher or the end of a ladle.

In a pan or vessel, heat the oil and splutter 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds. Add 1-2 broken red chili and asafoetida. Fry.

In a pan or vessel, heat the oil and splutter 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds. Add 1-2 broken red chili and asafoetida. Fry.

Add tamarind juice.

Add tamarind juice.

Add 1 teaspoon of jaggery. Boil over medium heat till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears.

Add 1 teaspoon of jaggery. Boil over medium heat till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears.

Add mashed dal mixture and mix well.

Add mashed dal mixture and mix well.

Add 2 cups of water to make the dal mixture watery.

Add 2 cups of water to make the dal mixture watery.

Boil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Boil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add cooled ground rasam powder.

Add cooled ground rasam powder.

If the rasam is too thick, add more water. Adjust salt and boil till the spices are well absorbed.

If the rasam is too thick, add more water. Adjust salt and boil till the spices are well absorbed.

Serve hot with steamed rice and ghee on top.

Serve hot with steamed rice and ghee on top.

Notes

  • 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.

Comments

Shwetha bhat (author) from Bengaluru on June 01, 2020:

Thanks Sowrabha for your sweet words. As you know there are many different methods we can prepare rasam and I really like this method. Please try it. I am sure you will like it too.

sowspeaks from Bengaluru on June 01, 2020:

Hi Shwetha, my kids love rasam or saroo and like you so correctly put it, I frequently prepare it on days when I feel lazy to cook. I observed two differences in your rasam- usage of black peppercorns in powder and the order of adding ingredients while finally assembling the rasam. We tend to put hunsehannu neeru in the end. I am definitely going to try this. Thanks for the clear instructions and photos Shwetha! I am coming back for more.

Shwetha bhat (author) from Bengaluru on May 31, 2020:

Thank you for the comment. Please try it. It's healthy too.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2020:

This recipe looks very good. I really do like lentils, and I would have to get some more of the spices for this meal. Thanks for sharing this recipe.