An iconic dish of South India known by its many names (saaru in Karnataka, rasam in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and chaaru in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) is the ultimate comfort food and a sure cure for all ailments known to the universe! A staple of every South Indian’s diet enjoyed with hot steaming rice and a nice dollop of fresh homemade ghee, rasam evokes pleasant memories of one’s childhood.
According to folklore, this dish was created during the Pandya reign when the prince fell seriously ill and refused to eat anything. A decree was issued that anyone who can prepare a dish that the prince would eat would receive a bag of gold coins. A Brahmin cook used locally available spices and seasonal vegetables and fruits like lemon, curry leaves, gooseberries, pineapple, black pepper, salt, turmeric and other herbs to prepare his appetizing dish.
The prince could not resist the aroma of the hot rasam that wafted the air and took a generous helping of the mouth-watering dish. He not only miraculously recovered from his serious illness but made rasam a mandatory dish in the state.
It is estimated that there are over 200 varieties of rasam that are prepared in different areas of South India. Local spices and medicinal herbs are ground into a fine powder and added to the rasam to lend it a distinctive taste.
Mysore rasam is the world-famous rasam that is a must have in Karnataka. This dish is said to have been created in the kitchen of the Mysore Maharaja by Tamil Brahmins from Srirangam. What makes the Mysore rasam so delicious is that it is essentially a tomato and coconut concoction with a healthy dose of freshly ground spices that keeps one’s body in excellent shape.
This flavoursome dish is best enjoyed when it is prepared in the traditional way using grandmother’s recipe and preferably her vessels. The taste of rasam made in the centuries-old vessels is extraordinary to say the least and is very different when prepared in modern-day utensils.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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