Jeeraga Rasam : South Indian Soup with cumin seeds

Cold winter nights, crisp chills are making me crave for warm foods. The weather in California is getting colder as each day is passing by. Clad in red sweater and green scarf, I feel so Christmas-y within. The office is decorated with Christmas props and a pretty tree perched on top of the table is screaming holiday season to me.

Christmas fever is in full swing here. Roads are dark by 5.00 PM, there is mist in my car window, malls are glittering with Christmas lights and my city looks so picture perfect.  Christmas Wonderland at Great America amusement park is ready for public. Farmer’s market is filled with caramel popcorns, balloons, Christmas carols and apple cider. There are potlucks and parties to attend and no mood for workouts or work. Oh God! Yes it is there. Christmasy vibe in the air.

We had our annual Christmas potluck throw down yesterday. Everyone at work were asked to bring in their favorite dish. Dahi Papadi Chaat was my dish and I won the “Best Savory Dish” award. There was food everywhere. I began to pile my plate turkey roast, chicken lasagna, Singapore noodles, Chinese rice cakes, Chicken Salad and so on. Having munched every morsel, I scanned my way to the desserts. There we talked about recipes while munching the reindeer cookies, coconut cream pies, rum soaked fruit cakes and brownies.

It was very cold day yesterday. I came home freezing from the ice cold breeze. As I parked the car, I craved for hot cardamom tea. I rummaged my pantry for the Sri Lankan teapack, my achi (grandmom) gifted me after her trip to Sri Lanka last year. Steamy tea loaded with ginger and cardamom was ready in no minute. I changed to PJs and wrapped my feet with the new holiday slipper gifted by secret Santa at work. The cinnamon candles I picked from Ross were lighted and I switched on the Christmas light tucked around my bookshelf. The cinnamon smelling air, glowing light, holiday cookies and steamy tea. I felt so Christmasy again.

After all the greasy and sugar food, all I wanted was a glass of cumin scented soup called rasam in my mother tongue. It was a simple menu at the dinner table – rice with rasam and carrot stir fry. I drank the rasam and called it a day.

Today’s post is the recipe for rasam made with cumin seeds.  My mom makes close to 13 different rasams. On some days I make pineapple or onion or tomato rasam while on other days, it will be lentil or garlic or mint rasam. Since I needed something to soothe my heavily greasy tummy, I made rasam with cumin seeds. It’s called Jeeraga Rasam. For this recipe, we use roasted and powdered toor dhal instead of regular mashed ones. It is one of the quickest rasam to make as we don’t have to spend the time pre-cooking the lentils. You can quickly soak the tamarind pulp in hot water for 10 minutes and if you have your “jeera rasam powder” (recipe below) in hand, this rasam takes less than 20 minutes to cook.


Source: My mother

Serves: 4-6


For the jeera rasam powder:

  • ¼ cup cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup toor dhal (split yellow peas)
  • ½ cup coriander seeds
  • 4-6 dry red chillies

For the rasam 

  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 medium size tomato, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup above made spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 lemon size tamarind soaked in 1 cup hot water or 2 tablespoon tamarind puree
  • 1 cup water + more water if using tamarind puree
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish


  1. Squeeze the juice of the tamarind pulp with hands, drain and set aside.

Jeera Rasam powder:

  1. Dry roast the ingredients separately for 2-4 minutes, until they get mildly toasted. Remove, cool and grind them together to a coarse powder. Store in airtight container.

For the rasam:

  1. Heat ghee or oil. Once hot enough, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the cumin seeds, dry red chilies and asafetida. Saute for a minute or so.
  2. Throw in the curry leaves and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, jeera rasam powder, turmeric, chili and cumin powder. Saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tamarind water or seedless tamarind puree. Bring it to a mild boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and add salt to taste.

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  1. Made the rasam. It was lovely. Plan to make large quantity of the powder.

    • Thank you for the comment. Glad you liked it.

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