4 states

I HAVE to start with a BIG thank you to all my readers, commentators, contributors who’ve patiently been putting up with and even strangely encouraging me to put up my stories and food – guys, without you, this blog would have died of disuse, wasting away, consumption, general Victorian ‘decline’ and had a obituary reading something like ” she was SO good at marbles when she was just 4 days old” or something like that because one HAS to say something good about even a dead blog, no? Instead of that, I have become hooked on to the writing, story telling, checking for comments in the middle of the night and generally all the hallmarks of a successful addict! So THANK YOU! and this thanks comes with a special edition of a everyday dish in 4 of the Southern states – a rap to rasam (‘coz an ode to rasam would have been sooo boring!)

“Chachhaara, edchaara? Chachhaara, edchaara?”  repeats the waiter as he comes serving down the long line of waiting bright green plantain leaves and hungry faces towards him. I stare at him in disbelief – did he just ask us if we had died (chachhaara)  or cried (edchaara)?

Then he comes closer and I see that he is serving out rasam/ chaaru/ saar/ mulligatawny (to Anglicise it) and figure out that what he was offering was a choice of cold rasam (challa chaaru) and hot rasam (vedi chaaru)! Delivered at breakneck speed, it sounded like he was wishing us either dead or weepy! 

The links between the languages (as also the cuisines) of the South of India are close but yet so far… causing innumerable confusions in the life of someone who’s lived in and claims a heritage from three of these! 

On another occasion (I may have told this tale earlier), my brother and I as very small children were inveigled into having this selfsame chaaru mistaking the Tamil rasam to mean the same as what it means in Telugu – which is “juice”. Hoping to be served a nice, sweet (very sweet to suit our tastes!) lemonade at a wedding where our tongues were on fire with the food, we called the “rasam” waiter over – only to have what was then our least-favourite dish – watery chaaru / rasam – splashed all over our plantain leaves! And if you’ve ever had to chase a rasam all over a leaf without getting it on your pattu paavadai, well, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Today’s post is in honour of four of the South Indian states and a dish which is made across all of these but with very different results- rasam/ chaaru/ saar/ saaru being featured.

My contributor for the Mysore saaru is my aunt Indu Hangal (brilliant cook when she’s not teaching Math!!), for the Andhra ulavala chaaru is Padmaja Nanduri (P.V.Padmaja from my school days), who’s sent me an unusual and yumy ulavala chaaru (horsegram chaaru) recipe, Shruti Nargundkar on the Maharashtrian ‘tomato saar’ – the lady who inspired me to start this whole blog and Hema Sekhar – my co-sister (if ever there was a case for including a term in the OED, this is it – what could be more decriptive??!), co-incidentally also a Math teacher and a great cook! Hmm… am beginning to wonder whether all those stories about bhindi and brain power also apply to rasam and the lil’ grey cells!

MYSORE RASAM (drinking type)- courtesy Indu Hangal

  • Tamarind paste – 1 tsp
  • The watery liquid from the top of boiled toor dal – 1 cup
  • Tomatoes – 2 – cut into chunks or whizzed in the mixer for a second – not pureed
  • Rasam powder – 3 tsp (please see my previous post on pineapple rasam for the recipe for ‘correct’ saarin podi) link : http://anuchenji.com/blog/dad-kitchen%E2%80%A6-pineapple-rasam
  • Asafoetida – 1large pinch
  • Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt
  • Water – 2 -3 cups

To temper:

  • Ghee (and no, there is no substitute!) – 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Peppercorns – 5-6
  • Jeera – cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander leaves chopped – 1 tbsp

Boil all the ingredients (except for tempering ones) together till the raw smell of tomato is gone. Switch off, temper and add coriander. Serve with hot rice for the most basic of comfort foods of a South Indian!


From my childhood friend and classmate, Padmaja (Nanduri), comes this yummy recipe for an authentic Andhra ulava chaaru

ULAVA CHAARU (HORSEGRAM RASAM) courtesy Padmaja Nanduri

  • 100 gm ulavalu-soak overnight. The next day, boil and grind. Reserve the water in which the gram was soaked.
  • Lemon sized ball of tamarind – soak and extract the juice.
  • Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder
  • Salt

For tempering :

  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera – cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Methi – fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilies – 3 or 4 – broken
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Coriander leaves – 2 tbsp

Mix the ground ulavalu with the water used for soaking.

In a deep vessel, heat oil or ghee for tempering. Temper with mustard, methi, jeera and red chilies.Add the curry leaves and fry. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for another minute.Add turmeric, ulavalu and tamarind water. Add salt and bring to the boil. Check the seasoning. Let the chaaru thicken. Add coriander leaves and switch off. Serve with hot rice and ghee. Pass GO and collect $200 as you straight to heaven!

 OF SOUPS AND SAARS – Recipe and story courtesy Shruti Nargundkar 

Maharashtrian Tomato Saar

“Saadhu aisa chahiye, jaisa soop subhay

Saar saar ko gahi rahe, thotha de udaay”

Savita Behenji is explaining “dohe” couplets by the poet saint Kabir. 

“What soup is Kabirdaas talking about?” She asks the silent class. 

Questions like this weren’t appreciated during the pre-lunch Hindi lesson. 

A precocious young me, used to (read – forced to) helping Aai at home winnow wheat and jowar in preparation of sending the grain to the local flourmill, smiled smugly as no one in the class answered.

Not only could I winnow the chaff from grain quite expertly, but also sift large stones and clumps of dirt with the large bamboo sieve. I could also proudly pan stones from soaking grains using the two-basin method with the panache of a prospector.What more, I could clean mustard seeds and poppy seeds by placing them in a metal plate and tilting it at an angle of about 30 degrees and pushing the playful pips up. The chaff stayed on the top while the clean kernels rolled to the bottom. 

I was to realise the therapeutic value of cleaning stuff only much later in life.  but really, how many 10-12 year olds studying in a “convent” school could/would do these chores? Even forty years ago…

For the life of me, I can’t understand, nor pardon, those who use the word “convent” to denote any/all boys/girls/coed English medium schools.

I am as humble as Savita Behenji is funny.

“Behenji, the soop is a winnow.” I proffer, putting an end to the little pogrom she had in mind.  I know she wanted to string us out for a while longer, leading the class to discover that the “soop” in question was a winnow. 

Tomato Saar, tomato soup… behenji’s “teacher” jokes would have killed us, if extreme hunger hadn’t already done so. Thwarted, Behenji goes on to describe how Kabir likens a wise man to a winnow that keeps the grain of good sense, while blowing the chaff of “non-sense” away. 

The bell rings for lunch just then, and my classmates’ looks of envy are replaced with gratitude. 

Good sense has prevailed. It’s time to turn to the saar.



  • 1 cup canned, chopped/crushed tomatoes (canned tomatoes work the best for soups and saar)
  • ¾ cup coconut milk, first extract (I use canned coconut milk)
  • 1-2 shallots, chopped 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 small green chilli
  • 1 tsp oil
  • ¾ tsp toasted cumin 
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • Coriander for garnish
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Water as required


Heat a saucepan and a tsp of oil. Lightly sauté the chopped shallot, garlic and green chilli. Blend with the tomato, cumin and pepper into a smooth puree using a stick blender (or mixer). 

Add water to the blended puree to adjust the consistency and bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and let the soup simmer for a while until a bright orange foam forms on the surface. 

Add the salt, sugar and then introduce the coconut milk. Do not boil much after this stage. Check and adjust the flavours. 

Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve hot with khichadi, masaley bhaat, vaangi bhaat or even plain rice. 

Or slurp it up in a cup. 

The epitome of everything essential to warm the cockles of your heart, this soup is for keeps. 

I am sure Kabir had this soup in mind when penning the doha. 

TAMIL RASAM – recipe courtesy Hema Sekhar

  •  Rasam (1L- serves 4)
  • Small Amla size tamarind-soak and extract
  • Salt to taste
  • Turmeric- 1/4 tsp
  • 1 tomato 
  • Rasam powder – 1 heaped tsp
  • 2 tablespoon tuvar dal wash and cook and keep aside
  • 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/4 tsp jeera crushed 
  • 1 small piece hing
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • Coriander chopped 1 tablespoon 
  • 1 teaspoon ghee 
  • Mustard to temper 


In a white tin (often mistaken for lead) vessel (to give added flavour- iyyachombu) boil tamarind water, salt, Hing and turmeric and keep on flame. In a small pan, pour ghee, fry mustard, curry leaves, half tomato cut into pieces, then pepper and Jeera and rasam powder. Once mustard splutters, put this into the tamarind water. In 5 minutes, mix enough water into the cooked dal, and pour into the boiling mixture with tomato pieces.Watch till froth appears on the top and switch off. Put in coriander leaves.(Must not boil to preserve flavour)

All purpose podi :

  • 250g red chilli powder 
  • 200g corriander seeds
  • 120g Bengal gram dal
  • 100g tuvar dal
  • 1 tablespoon pepper 
  • 1 tsp jeera 

Dry roast each ingredient slightly, separately. And powder. Into the last mixing stage, add 1 tablespoon turmeric powder. Mix and bottle.

For those of you who think rasam/saaru is a boring old dish, here’s a rap to rasam to sex up the dish – i think! And if you don’t like my song, well go make some rasam!
“What the world is in that can, what you got in that can
Looks like dirty water, tastes like nothing can
Holy s***, gimme more, gimme, gimme, gimme the whole can
Yo maami,…hey maami, you really is the man..
the man who can…..gimme, gimme,gimme the whole can”