Arusuvai Natarajan Rasam Recipe

Rasam, literally meaning 'juice', is a spicy-sweet-sour soup stock prepared using ingredients like tomato, tamarind, cumin, and other vegetables. In any South Indian household and especially in Tamilnadu, rasam is eaten at lunchtime along with cooked rice. It is eaten/drunk hot because of its healing properties as an antidote for common ills. It carries the flavour of tanginess due to the tomatoes and sour due to the tamarind in it. It is easy to digest and activates the stomach for digestion due to healthy acids present in it. There are different versions of Rasam prepared at every home, with every family having their own recipe and method of preparing it. The recipe mentioned here is the recipe used by the legendary culinary Tamil chef Nataraja Iyer.

About Arusuvai Natarajan

 Popular in Chennai (then Madras), Nataraja Iyer was the foremost expert in event catering, starting small and growing his catering experience and empire. He started as a server at small eateries in Trichy when he was a kid. Coming from a culinary family, he assisted his grandfather in the kitchen while his grandfather ran the catering business for special occasions.

 Very quickly, Nataraja Iyer started managing both the cooking side and the catering side. In the 1940s, he began catering events on his own, and his popularity increased as the quality and food he brought to the table sang praises about his service. People even accepted wedding invites when they got to know about Nataraja Iyer's presence there. He catered for numerous celebrity weddings in Chennai, during which V.V.Giri, the former President of India, bestowed upon him the title of 'Arusuvai Arasu', i.e., king of all the six tastes of food, namely sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent.

Arusuvai Arasu Caterers offers the best wedding catering services in chennai. It was started by Nataraja Iyer, is now run by his family's next generation after the legend passed away in 2018. It has kept up the reputation in Tamilnadu. Despite all his amazing achievements in the culinary field, Nataraja Iyer remained a humble man with over 75,000 events catered to. He spread his knowledge by starting a column in the famed Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan. He shared recipes for some of his signature dishes – rasam, vattalkozhambu, milagu kozhambu, kadappar, rasavangi and paal payasam, for instance – in his column to make the knowledge known to the public.

Arusuvai Natarajan Recipes Rasam

 One of the most delicious rasam versions ever made, Nataraja Iyer Rasam is an all-time favourite in many households in Chennai. It is made using freshly ground cumin and black peppercorns, with spiciness coming from the ginger, dry red chillies and green chillies added to the rasam. A bit of jaggery is used in the rasam to give it a sweet tinge, which beautifully balances the tang from the tomatoes and tamarind. Fenugreek seeds are used to temper the rasam and induce slight bitterness in the rasam. Being a completely vegetarian recipe, it is suitable for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Avoiding asafoetida in the tempering of the rasam can make it gluten-free as well.

 Making Nataraja Iyer Rasam

 Ingredients (to serve 4-5 people):

 ¼ cup - toor dal

  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 2 pieces - green chillies
  • 2 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
  • 4-5 pieces - dry red chillies
  • ¾ tbsp - jaggery powder
  • 1 tsp - cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp - black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ tbsp - ghee
  • 1 tsp - mustard seeds
  • 2 pinches - asafoetida
  • 1 tsp - cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch - fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbsp - coriander (finely chopped)
  • Salt (as required)


Preparation of the rasam:

 Wash the toor dal well and drain the water out. Add fresh water to immerse the dal fully. Pressure cook the toor dal till it is cooked thoroughly. Let the pressure release naturally.

  1. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water till it softens. Allow it to cool down till its temperature is comfortable to handle.
  2. Slit the green chillies lengthwise, chop the tomatoes finely and peel the ginger and chop it very finely. Keep them aside.
  3. Grind the cumin and peppercorns together till it is a coarse mixture. Keep it aside.
  4. Mash the pressure cooked toor dal well. Keep it aside.
  5. Extract the juice out of the tamarind by adding water little by little over it. About half a cup of tamarind water can be extracted from the tamarind. Keep the tamarind water aside.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and finely chopped ginger to a hot pan. Add in 2 tablespoons of water and a little salt for flavour. Cook the tomatoes and ginger on a high flame till it turns mushy.
  7. Add tamarind water, salt to taste, dry red chillies (broken), slit green chillies, turmeric powder and curry leaves to the pan. Cook them on a high flame until the tamarind's raw smell is gone (This takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes of cooking).
  8. Add the mashed toor dal to the pan. Add 1½ cups of water, jaggery powder and the coarse cumin and peppercorns mixture. Mix the ingredients together well. Taste and adjust the amount of salt if necessary.
  9. Cook the pan on a high flame till the mixture starts to boil. Decrease the flame size to medium and then simmer for a couple of minutes—lower the pan from the stove.
  10. To start tempering the rasam, first heat ghee in a small pan. Add mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Lower flame to medium and then add in cumin seeds, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds. Let them stay in the pan for a few seconds. Make sure they do not burn. Add this tempering mix to the rasam.
  11. Add finely chopped coriander leaves to the rasam. Mix everything well. 


Serve the Nataraja Iyer Rasam hot, with hot steamed rice and a South Indian-style poriyal on the side. That's how it is best experienced.

 Additional pointers when making the rasam:

  1.  According to taste preferences, the amount of tamarind and jaggery used can be adjusted.
  2. Adding a few crushed garlic cloves to the rasam while simmering on the stove can give the rasam a beautiful aftertaste.
  3. Depending on how many people there are to serve and thinking portion sizes, adjust the quantity of water used to make the rasam.
  4. The amount of water used to make the rasam also depends on the consistency of the rasam you want to serve.
  5. Use the fenugreek seeds carefully and limitedly as too much of it can make the rasam bitter.
  6. Country tomatoes are better for making this version of the rasam than farm tomatoes.
  7. When tempering the rasam, oil can be used as a replacement for ghee.


The legacy of Nataraja Iyer lives on in Arusuvai Arasu Caterers. We have taken the gems of knowledge handed down by him and carried on the reputation and quality that Nataraja Iyer first had in his service to the culinary world.


Contact Arusuvai Arasu

+91 98410 24446

New No.4 Old No.39,

Rajabadher Street,

near Rathina Fan house,

T.Nagar, Chennai,

Tamil Nadu 600017