Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)

As I have noted before, when I first started cooking Indian dishes, I would generally make dishes originating from the Northern region and those adapted for North American preferences. As I became a more accomplished and curious cook, I started to explore traditional dishes from Southern India. Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan has proved to be an essential addition to my extensive cookbook collection. Lots of beautiful photographs accompany recipes for sambars, rasams, poriyals, kootus, vegetable dishes, rice, spice powders, snacks and appetizers, chutneys and pickles and even menu suggestions. This book is invaluable to anyone looking to learn more about south Indian cooking.

Traditional south Indian dishes tend to have more steps, as there is often a paste and tempering step and lots of seeds and spices to measure out, but they are certainly worth the bother and some of the most flavorful and satisfying creations from my kitchen. I will also note the delightful aromatic smell that will warm up your kitchen.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a rasam is a thin and often watery dish, traditionally served as the second course of a South Indian meal. Tamarind, tomatoes, and lemon or lime figure prominently. I made mine a bit thicker and served it with Mustard Seed Rice for an especially satisfying and nourishing Indian dinner. I certainly impressed my dinner guests.

Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)
Recipe by
Adapted from Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India
Cuisine: South Indian
Published on April 10, 2010

Classic south Indian spicy soup loaded with a variety of lentils

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  • 1/2 cup dried toor dal (split pigeon peas) or red lentils
  • 1/4 cup dried whole mung beans
  • 1/4 cup dried split mung beans
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • large handful of fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
  • 3 teaspoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 dried whole red chilies, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon split skinned urad dal, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1/3 cup dried grated unsweetened coconut
  • handful of dried curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 dried whole red chilies, broken into pieces
  • handful of dried curry leaves
  • Rinse the toor dal or red lentils and mung beans. Cover with water and soak for a few hours. Drain the water, transfer to a large saucepan, and cover with 3 1/4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal is soft — about 45 minutes. Do not drain the dal.

  • While the dals are cooking, make the paste. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, red chilies, urad dal and asafetida. Stir for 60 seconds. Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the coconut, curry leaves and water. Blend into a smooth paste, adding a bit more water if necessary. Set aside.

  • For the tempering, heat the ghee, butter or oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies and curry leaves. Stir for 60 seconds until the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop. Add the tomato, turmeric, cayenne and salt, and stir until the tomato is thickened — about 5 minutes. Add the paste, stir for another minute, and then add this mixture to the cooked dals. Add another cup or two of water, depending on how thick you want your rasam to be. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve hot with fresh cooked white rice.

Makes 6 servings

Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)

You might also enjoy:
Beetroot Rasam
Toor Dal and Green Bean and Pea Poriyal
Toor Dal Palak
Tarka Dal

On the top of the reading stack: 366 Delicious Ways To Cook Rice Beans And Grains by Andrea Chesman

Audio Accompaniment: Translucence/Drift Music by Harold Budd and John Foxx


ruchikacooks said...

Lisa, I love rasam so much, it is a regular at home. Spicy rasam looks tempting, will have it any day with potato fry!

Thanks for the entry.

FewMinute Wonders said...

Hi Lisa,

I think Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan is a awesome cook book. HEr recipes are very easy to follow and its good that you have started venturing into south Indian cuisine. I have tried her recipes and learnt a lot from her cooking style. Poricha rasam is very delicious rasam to have with rice. I hope you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Dakshin is really had a good collection of delectable dishes...your dish looks srummy....

AJ said...

Yum, this dish looks very tasty!

notyet100 said...

comfortin this looks

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I am here (and at my other fave blogs) after a long time to find its rasam this time.
Not one of my favourites, but my family loves it. My daughter can have this for lunch for a week straight!!! :)

Thistlemoon said...

This sounds so good Lisa! You always make everything look so beautiful! :)