Milagu rasam (Pepper water – A South Indian favourite)

‘Rasam’ the famous South Indian dish, is otherwise known as “Indian clarified herbal consommé”. Every South Indian home relish and enjoy the dish ‘Rasam’ as a main part of their meal. The very thought of Rasam brings to me nostalgic memories of my home in Pondicherry. We never said ‘no’ to rasam, whether lunch or dinner the aromatic rasam was a part of our meal, not out of compulsion but because of the taste, satisfaction and also the health benefits of the dish. When down with cold or fever, a glass of ‘rasam’, made with freshly ground peppercorn, is consumed. Among the Anglo-Indians this dish is known as “Pepper Water”.

‘Rasam’ is very light, tasty, spicy, sometimes only sour or sometimes sweet and sour too! (Rasam made with pineapple). This dish is made with a variety of ingredients and has various methods of preparation in each home. However, the standard and important ingredients in this dish are tomatoes and tamarind juice. The taste of the rasam depends on the fresh tomatoes that are used in this dish, so always ensure you pick out the good ripe and firm tomatoes for the rasam. This flavoured soup like dish is a very delicious combination with white rice, papad and pickle.

At the South Indian wedding ceremonies, the meals are served in a particular order. Rasam is served towards the end(after sambar) , as it has good digestive values. The rasam rice is then followed by curd rice. This pattern is even followed in some homes. At times the rasam is even drunk like a soup, at the start of a meal.

Here is the recipe for the famous South Indian mouth- watering ‘Rasam’. At the last stage, as you temper/season this dish, your home will be filled with a tempting and wonderful aroma.


  • 3 cups of tamarind juice by soaking and squeezing lime size tamarind in water (or) 2 tsp tamarind pulp dissolved in 4 cups of water.
  • 2 tsp of Rasam powder
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium size tomato
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
  • salt as needed

For tempering:

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp jeera seeds
  • 1 red chilly
  • a pinch of hing
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 tsp ghee/oil
  • Freshly ground peppercorns(for the aroma of pepper)


If not using Rasam Powder, use the following ingredients:

  • 2 tsp pepper powder
  • 2 tsp jeera powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp dhania powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder(if spice required)


  • Take the tamarind juice in vessel and add all the powders/rasam powder, garlic and salt to it.
  • Squeeze the tomatoes by your hand and mix with the liquid well. Check for salt and spice level. Add the coriander leaves and keep aside.
  • Take a pan and heat 2 tsp of oil/ghee. To this add the tempering/seasoning ingredients one by one. First add the mustard, then jeera seeds, hing and  then the curry leaves. When they splutter, add the whole red chilly (but ensure that the pan is taken of the flame to fry the red chilly, else it will turn black).
  • Put back pan on flame and now add the freshly ground peppercorns and tamarind juice mixture to it.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and look for the bubbles.

The trick for good rasam lies at the last stage. As I have mentioned below in the tips for good rasam, the rasam should not boil at any cost. When the first stage of boiling bubbles appear like a foam as shown in the above picture, should switch off the stove and take the pot away from the stove and close with a lid. Allow it to rest for atleast 10 mins.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

Tips to make your rasam taste wonderful:


  1. Rasam should never be boiled.
  2. In this very same recipe you can add ‘Dal water’ – Boil or pressure cook Tuar dal/Yellow Split Lentil, with water for 10 minutes. Drain off water from the dal and use this for the rasam recipe or you can also churn the boiled Dal/Lentil and use this thick syrup for the rasam which is also called ‘Dal rasam’.
  3. Just before serving hot, add a dollop of ghee on the rasam it will enhance the taste and aroma of the dish.
  4. The Rasam can also be flavoured and prepared by using these main ingredients like cumin, mango, garlic, ginger, pineapple or lemon.
  5. Garnish with a few coriander leaves.
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