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
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.
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:
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.