Tamarind Soup
Cookbook author and cooking instructor Smita Chandra visited the SAVEUR test kitchen to help us develop the recipe for this classic South Indian soup, which is soured with tamarind and spiced with black pepper, coriander, cumin, and rasam powder—a toasted blend of chana dal, chiles, and whole spices, which can be made or purchased from specialty stores. See the recipe for Smita Chandra's Rasam (Spicy Tamarind Soup). Ingalls Photography

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

Yield: serves 4


  • 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


  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.