Mom’s Garlic Pepper Rasam

Authentic South Indian Garlic Pepper Rasam

My daughter was two when my mom passed. She knows her maternal grandma through pictures only and can’t recollect any experiences with her.  It is so unfortunate that I couldn’t have my little girl enjoy the love, pampering and warmth of the most wonderful person on earth. Most girls look up to their moms as their role model, but I wanted my baby to derive all her inspirations from my mom. I have never come across another woman like her that is a conglomerated personification of love, faith, selflessness, willpower, patience, intelligence, courage, and stamina.

Authentic South Indian Garlic Pepper Rasam

My kids love listening to my stories. I’m not a fancy story teller by any means and my stories are not creative either. However, I’m good at recalling events and episodes from the past and I narrate them fairly well. Since these are all real life stories with people that they can relate to, they happen to enjoy them almost always. While making it fun for them I also try to slide in a message or two that could be valuable in shaping them up to become better humans.

Authentic South Indian Garlic Pepper Rasam

One night at bed time, my daughter was very curious to know about the house I grew up in. The number of rooms, bathrooms, yard size etc. were some of the things she wanted to know about. We lived in a very simple house in Southern Chennai. It reflected a typical middle class family’s house of those days in every way. One bedroom, one bathroom, a living room that often got re-purposed as a dining room or as an additional bedroom based on the need of the hour. Refrigerator, air-conditioner and even telephone were considered luxury items back then. I can clearly recall the times when my parents were able to afford procuring such necessities later on, one after the other. It was a simple, but a very happy home that stood tall and strong to demonstrate that people created happiness and not money or material things.

Authentic South Indian Garlic Pepper Rasam

We always ate fresh home cooked food. It wasn’t uncommon for families to not eat out back then, but my mom fed us with the best possible food despite working full time in shifts that ran through odd hours of the day and night. Our kitchen or living room doubled up as our dining room as well. We always ate as a family and sat on the floor in a circle to eat. Mom arranged all the dishes right next to her, served us every course and started to eat only after we were all done. Sometimes she’d be left with not enough of the rice or curry as we may have gone for an extra helping.  She’d never complain but would ask us to always have in mind the need of the others at the table.  We’ll clean up together and start getting the living room ready to become our bedroom. Life wasn’t easy by any stretch of imagination but our parents toiled and sacrificed a lot to give us a life that was much better than their own in every way. We owe all that we are today, to them.

Isn’t that a story that packs a few key messages for any kid? I’m sure many of you will be able make connections from here to your own lives too. I’d love to hear your story. Can you share with me?

Authentic South Indian Garlic Pepper Rasam #foodphotography
I have been blogging about my mom’s recipes every  now and then. I started to do it for others, but it has become a very good repository for my own self now.  This rasam recipe is her’s that anyone can make. It is the most sought after rasam when you have cold or recovering from a fever. Freshly roasted and ground spices make it very flavorful and tasty. You don’t need any special pre-made rasam masalas to make this rasam. This recipe is a keeper.


Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4-6


1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
6-8 garlic cloves (peeled)
half a lime sized tamarind
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida) powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp jaggery

For Masala

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp coriander seeds
2-3 red chilies
1 tsp oil

For Tempering

1 tsp oil or ghee
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1 or 2 whole dried red chilies
1 sprig curry leaves


Soak tamarind in a cup of warm water. Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil and roast the spices until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Let it cool and grind to a smooth paste with quarter cup of warm water (see note).

Squeeze pulp out of tamarind and transfer it to a sauce pan. Add tomatoes, salt, jaggery, turmeric powder, hing and garlic (gently smashed). Add about three cups of water and bring it to a boil. Simmer until the tomatoes become mushy, starting to disintegrate. To this, add the ground masala, stir well. Add more water if required based on your desired consistency. Bring the rasam to a boil once again and turn off heat.

To temper, heat oil in a small pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Allow to pop, add red chilies, saute for a minute and then add curry leaves. Pour over rasam. You can add some chopped cilantro also, if you’d prefer.

Serve warm with hot rice and pappad or your favorite side dish.


  1. You’ll need a very small jar to grind the masala to a paste. I have tried using Magic Bullet’s small juice jar and it works very well. Alternatively, you can crush the spices in a mortar and pestle until they are fine and add this to the rasam too.
  2. Tempering using ghee makes the rasam more flavorful.
  3. Pappad roasted in naked gas flame pairs is a very simple yet amazing side dish for rasam and rice.
  4. Rasam rice must be eaten piping hot. You can enjoy rasam as a soup too.
  5. If you are not a big fan of garlic, simple skip using it. The rasam will still be divine.
  6. Tomatoes can be made optional as well. When we ran out of tomatoes (recall those hurricane times with no power for days) and still needed a good rasam, mom always used this recipe.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Hema says:

    Lovely narration Meera…can totally relate to it. I remember we used to eat as a family every night when I was a child and how I miss those days :(. You brought back some good memories xx.

  2. Chithu says:

    Darling Meera
    Awesome write up…..Felt very emotional…. It was a walk in my memory lane too….Took me back to my childhood…i can totally relate to it….Miss those good times….You are a great story teller…its a good idea to narrate our life events to kids with a hidden message…I always enjoy your write up first and in fact the actual recipe comes next to it only….
    Photos…what shud i say? ….They are so classy and wonderful…You are a natural pro …Loved all the photos…rustic look an reflects moms kitchen actually…

    1. Thanks a lot Chithu. It is the time that friends like you spend on the blog, makes all the effort worthwhile. Every such comment goes a long in encouraging and pushing me to do better. Truly appreciate it.

  3. Mahi says:

    Ahhh I came here because rasam is my favorite food and now I’m emotional. So sweet that you share these recipes with your family and with us! Xx

  4. zuricheats says:

    What a nice recipe, post and photos. I am glad that I came across to your blog! Loved your style!

  5. jayadevka says:

    Nothing beats mum’s yummy rasam 😀
    Really nice page btw!

  6. Ivy says:

    Thank you Meera for this beautiful story – brought back memories of my dear Mum and family too. Thank you for this treasured recipe which has such happy memories for you. I believe food connects people – I enjoy cooking (especially mum’s recipes) for my family and my boys have learnt a few of them – they are grown up now and live away from home – they are able to prepare a lovely meal and enjoy it when they have the time. My mum lives on in them!! God bless you and your little one. Much love and hugs. xoxo

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