Smita Chandra’s Rasam (Spicy Tamarind Soup)

  • Serves

    serves 4

Spicy Tamarind Soup
Spicy Tamarind Soup

Tamarind—aks Indian date—contributes a sweet-and-sour flavor that pairs well with aromatic rasam powder, a toasted blend of dal, chiles and spices.

Rasam powder—a toasted blend of chana dal, chiles, and whole spices—combines with curry leaves, chiles, and a host of other spices in this peppery south Indian soup, a staple of the January harvest festival known as Pongal. This recipe, which comes to us from cookbook author and cooking instructor Smita Chandra, first appeared in our August/September 2014 special India issue with VK Sreelash's story Cooking Cousins.

Find this recipe in our cookbook, SAVEUR: Soups and Stews


  • 2 tbsp. toor dal (yellow pigeon peas), rinsed, soaked 30 minutes, and drained
  • 12 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp. rasam powder
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 12 tsp. red chile powder, such as cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 14 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 14 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 14 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 15 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 2 chiles de árbol, stemmed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced


Step 1

Bring dal, turmeric, tomatoes, salt, and 5 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until dal is mushy, about 45 minutes. Stir in rasam powder, tamarind paste, black pepper, coriander, cumin, and chile powder; cook 5 minutes. Heat oil in an 8" skillet over medium-high. Cook mustard, cumin, and fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and chiles de árbol until seeds pop, 1–2 minutes. Add garlic; cook until golden, 3–4 minutes, and stir into soup.

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