My Mother’s Rasam – South Indian “King Soup”


Rasam or King Soup is one that featured in our house on rainy days or days when someone, most often my father, had a cold. It’s a South Indian soup -peppery and hot, sour and nourishing and clears the head. It can be strained and enjoyed in a mug or served as is over a bowl of hot basmati rice.

My paternal grandmother made an excellent Rasam, she had the hand of the women of her generation- delicate in spicing (by Durban standards), prepared food that could cure common ailments and had a pot that could always feed another visitor. She lost a vicious three month battle to cancer when I was 13. I miss her to this day and often wonder what she would have made of the changes post apartheid (she just missed the transition), my life choices and the internet. The internet, there’s a big one. Can’t imagine the grand-pee’s calling via skype, to be honest.

My mother visited recently and this is her recipe for Rasam. She made do with the yellow mustard seeds in my cupboard that afternoon but insists you use black mustard seeds. A friend just brought me a pack of black mustard seeds from Natal – you should be able to find them at most spice shops around the country. They are not easy to find at supermarkets, not in the Cape anyway.


Serves 4

4-5 T tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 cups warm water

1 T whole black peppercorns

1 T cumin seeds

1 T black mustard seeds

1 head garlic, peeled

1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly

2 T vegetable oil

4 dried red chillis

1 t turmeric

1 medium tomato, skinned and chopped

1 cup water

salt, to taste

15-20 g fresh coriander, washed, de-stalked and chopped roughly


In a heavy mortar, crush the pepper, mustard seeds, garlic and cumin seeds with a little salt, until the spices are fairly fine but not a powder and the garlic forms a paste.

On medium heat in a pot, fry the onions until translucent.

Add the crushed spices, garlic and red chillis. Fry for a minute, stirring. Add the turmeric and stir for 10 seconds. Add the tomato and the tamarind juice (strain out any pips).

Bring to the boil and lower heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add half a cup water (or more if the soup is too strong).  Season with salt and serve with fresh coriander.

Serve over basmati rice, or strain and serve in mugs.

The rasam improves in flavour the next day. Couldn’t be easier, too.

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By |2017-05-08T12:24:04+00:00September 9th, 2012|Food, Indian Food Easy Peasy, Recipe Index, Recipes, Soups & Stews|49 Comments


  1. […] Click here for my Mom’s recipe at Food and the Fabulous […]

  2. Haloumi September 10, 2012 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Oh Wow, If I could take a nice crispy roll and dip into my screen I would. Where would I find the Tamarind paste in JHB, any suggestions please? This looks amazing. Thanks.

    • Ishay September 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Hello there! i’m not sure of stockists in Jhb – but Oriental Plaza will stock tamarind, they come in soft blocks and most Indian spice shops will carry too. Hope you find some, it really is different intensity to tamarind paste that you would find in an store carrying Thai and Asian goodies – most of them, anyhow.

      • Haloumi September 17, 2012 at 9:49 am - Reply

        Perfect thanks so much, will be visiting the “orient” very soon.

  3. Elaine September 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    That soup looks stunning and I have everything available in my cupboard except black mustard seeds! I think I’ll start it tonight. Lovely website you’ve got.

    • Ishay September 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Elaine.Thank you and happy rasam making. Use yellow mustard seeds if you have or 1 t of fenugreek 🙂

  4. Simone September 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Funny how just today we were talking about eating more of these kind of foods. They’re so comforting and indeed perfect for when your having a cold. With autumn coming up this will be fabulous to try!

    • Ishay September 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Simone. Prefect for the weather headed your way, but I hope it’s still warm for a while longer yet.

  5. sandra September 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    i also add fresh parsley,and coriander.Whaaaaahhh its realy
    I make a big pot and portion them and freeze them,believe me its even nicer than the first one.

    I also use the peel of the garlic ,just a little smash with the peel.

    • Ishay September 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Hello. Thank you for sharing your suggestions!

  6. Margret September 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    Hi there, most soups / Eintopf(s) are better the next day.
    Query: 1 T is tablespoon, 1 t is a teaspoon?

    • Ishay October 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Hello Margret. Thanks for writing! Correct 1 T = tablespoon; 1 t = teaspoon

  7. Shirley October 25, 2012 at 8:58 am - Reply

    This soup looks so delicious! Spicy, fragrant delicious… mmmmm

  8. Luke February 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    My wife and I had this soup out at a restaurant just recently for the 1st time. Your recipe is superior and spectacular. Thank You

    • Ishay February 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Luke. Thanks for the lovely compliment – can’t go wrong with Mum’s recipes 🙂

  9. Nisha March 18, 2013 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Thanks SO much for this delicious and easy recipe – came out PERFECT 🙂

    • Ishay March 18, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear it. Hope you visit again soon 🙂

  10. Mandy May 16, 2013 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Can 1 add crab to this? if so how and when do u add it

    • Ishay May 21, 2013 at 2:24 am - Reply

      Hello Manusha. I’m not familiar with this. Crab takes roughly ten minutes to cook, and will probably taste even better the next day. I don’t recommend overcooking prawns or crab, but you can gauge depending on size of pieces. Let me know how it goes.

  11. Rajen May 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Delicious.

    • Ishay July 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      Thank you Ranjen. Could do with some on a day like this.

  12. Anon July 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Delicious…same recipe I enjoyed immensely while growing up. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ishay July 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading, it certainly is a wonderful reminder of home for me too.

  13. Jack July 26, 2013 at 5:37 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. I’ve been tinkering on and off with various rasam recipes for some time now and I really enjoyed yours. Of course I added a LOT more dried chilies because I’m totally addicted to the heat. I noticed you didn’t included any asafetida. Is there a reason this is excluded? I thought it was required for all rasam…

    Thanks again!

    • Ishay July 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Reply

      Hello Jack.

      My mother often uses fenugreek (methi) seeds as we were never fond of hing when we were kids so she’s tailored it suit our tastes. It does have a particular smell I never enjoyed, but by all means use it if you like. Thanks for writing and good on you on all the chilli!

  14. Sureshni Pillay September 17, 2013 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Hi Ishay
    I am going to attempt this for the first time this evening.
    Just checking with you,
    “Bring to the boil and lower heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes. Add half a cup water (or more if the soup is too strong)”
    Do I add the water after the soup has been cooked? or first add the water and then bring to a boil?

    • Ishay September 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Hello! I’m so excited that you will be cooking this recipe. So, to clarify: you would have soaked the tamarind in 2 cups of water (see ingredient list). This is what you will turn up to boil, along with the onions, spices and aromatics. You add extra water after (step 5). Hope that’s clear and you enjoy making it!

      • Sureshni Pillay September 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm - Reply

        It came out perfect! Yayyyy! I very nervously sent some for my mum and she was super impressed just for the fact that I made this dish all on my own. It tasted so good, just like moms. Thanks Ishay!

        • Ishay September 18, 2013 at 9:34 am - Reply

          I’m thrilled! Well done. And thanks for letting me know. Hope you visit the blog again soon, Sureshni.

  15. Rose Sewnarain February 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    What an awesome site. Stumbled on it by accident when I was looking for the recipe for rasam.
    Keep up the fantastic work
    God Bless

    • clonlea October 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. I am from Durban, Living in the UK and its the perfect thing for a cold! Could you please advise, would I have to adjust the quantity if using Tamarind Paste?


      • Ishay October 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

        It’s a pleasure. Thanks for writing. It would depend on the paste – they all differ. I’d suggest start with 1 tablespoon and adjust, adding more if needed. Happy cooking!

        • joan January 25, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

          Hi there:
          Just confirming – that’s a whole HEAD of garlic?

          • Ishay January 26, 2015 at 7:02 pm

            Hi Joan. I know it sounds like a great deal of garlic. If it’s a large head or you’re not too fond of garlic, you can use half the quantity. Enjoy!

  16. rita February 28, 2015 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for the rasam recipe. will try it today

  17. Rovina brijlall March 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Hi, I just made this soup and it really helped with the cold and especially the fever. My mom normally makes it for me when I am in Durban and sick but since I am in pretoria I have to make it myself. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Ishay March 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm - Reply

      Thrilled to hear this! Mum’s cooking is alway best, but we do what we can when we have to 🙂

  18. Ujen March 16, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Wow I tried your recipe a try and it was amazing. It made me feel so nostalgic and reminded me of home.
    Thank you!!!

    • Ishay March 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for the feedback Ujen. I’m thrilled you liked it. Happy cooking

  19. Isaac March 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Hi there, I’m planning to make this rasam recipe this coming Sunday. Just to clarify, 1 t of tumaric (powder or the whole thingy)?

    • Ishay March 31, 2015 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Isaac. Ground turmeric is perfectly fine. Happy cooking!

  20. Saleem May 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Hi I don’t ever comment,BUT I just made this and I loved every sip and spoonful?

    • Ishay May 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Saleem. I’m so glad to hear. Thank you!

  21. saliem hassim August 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    thanks so so much I have the flu and u have assisted me

    • Ishay August 14, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

      Hi Saliem,

      Thank you so much for sharing! Glad it worked 🙂


  22. Sandeep September 30, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Great stuff. Just made it for my wife who is ill. Couldn’t be more simple yet satisfying. Keep it up! And thank you.

    • Ishay September 30, 2017 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandeep. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. We wish your wife a speedy recovery!

  23. Talia January 6, 2018 at 12:24 am - Reply

    I’m so excited to have found this recipe! I learned how to make this from Auntie Pilay while living in Maritzburg in high school. For years now living back in the US my mother and I have yearned for her cooking, this being one of our favourite dishes that she would make us. She made the best Roti and Murruku as well. Can’t wait to see if it is all I remember it to be.

    • Ishay January 6, 2018 at 12:38 am - Reply

      Hi Talia. Isn’t this wonderful – how our memories of dear foods and the people who made them for us, works?
      This is a simplified recipe and I really hope you enjoy making it.
      Thanks for sharing your lovely memories with us.

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