Back in June, I had notifications set to alert me when Padma Lakshmi’s Taste the Nation was available to stream on Hulu, and I binged it in two days. Every episode inspired me, but the dish I was craving to try at home the most was the Rasam dish Padma and her mother cooked together on Episode 3: Don’t Mind if I Dosa.
Not long after finishing the series, thoughts of that Rasam dish would not leave my head. On our next supply run, I insisted on a trip down Kirkwood Hwy. Although I looked thoroughly, I could not find Asphetida, which was a spice Padma’s mother insisted Rasam needed, but I did finally find MTR Madras Rasam Powder at Newark Farmer’s Market, which listed Asphetida as an ingredient. So, I adapted and decided to accept what was available. The tamarind block was much easier to find, and NFM had several varieties to choose from. With the new ingredients in my pantry, all I needed next was a brisk, soup-friendly evening.
It felt like family watching Padma and her mom cook Rasam together, but I fell in love with this tomato soup Sunday night alone, as my wife was called back to work for a go-live at a hospital on the Jersey Shore, where she’s staying through the three week long project so she can get Covid tested again before returning home. It’s pretty nerve racking, to say the least, but looking forward to cooking and slurping down an oversized bowl of this Rasam Chicken Soup kept me grounded in self care, positive thoughts, and gratitude for my health and home. Subsequently, I’m pretty sure variations of this tomato soup are gonna’ be heavily rotated around my kitchen this season, and, hopefully, yours too.
Here’s a link to Padma’s recipe for Rasam.
Padma’s recipe is cooked on the stovetop, calls for a ping pong sized knob of tamarind, jaggery, and sometimes she adds shrimp to hers. My recipe utilizes an Insta Pot, a half ping pong sized knob of tamarind, and shredded chicken thighs. So, per usual, tweak this recipe as you go, tasting, adding, or subtracting to suit your preferences. Most of all, let’s all take a moment to bask in the warmth of soup season. It’s finally here, and it’s a small thing, I know, but a luscious bowl of soup fills me up with such simple joy.
2 cups fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup hot water
1/2 knob of compressed tamarind
1 – 2 cups shredded or diced chicken
6 – 8 curry leaves
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 dried chili de arbol or Thai Bird chili, optional
2 tbsp Madras Rasam powder, or to taste
1 tab Ghee or neutral oil of choice
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro
Reconstitute the tamarind by adding the knob to the cup of hot water. Allow to soak until the tamarind is very soft then mash with a fork. Strain the tamarind to remove seeds with a skimmer ladle, reserving the liquid and pulp. Set aside.
Set an Insta Pot to the Sauté setting on High. Once hot, add in the Ghee, allow to melt, then add in the fenugreek, cumin, mustard, and coriander seeds. Once the mustard seeds stop popping, add in the Madras Rasam powder, curry leaves, and chili, if using. Sauté until the curry leaves are very fragrant, about 1 minute, and then add in the chopped fresh tomatoes. Continue cooking until the tomatoes are very tender, about 8 minutes. Add next the tamarind water and 5 cups of stock.
Turn off the Insta Pot, add the lid, set to pressure lock, then set the Insta to the Soup setting for 45 minutes. Once the pressure is released, remove the lid, and add in the shredded chicken. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If a thicker soup is desired, set the Insta back to the Sauté High setting and reduce to your preference.
Serve the Rasam Chicken Soup immediately, garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve with side of choice. I dunked garlic naan in mine.