Food has an innate ability to conjure feelings of love, comfort, and cherished memories. In South India, rasam embodies this sentiment. And if you are a meat lover who prefers something meaty yet light on the palate, there are various non-vegetarian rasam preparations that will get you hooked on the soup like no other dish can.
Food has an innate ability to conjure feelings of love, comfort, and cherished memories. While regional preferences may vary, the emotional connection endures. For instance, relishing a bowlful of piping hot rasam alongside fluffy rice when under the weather or on a chilly day induces warmth and allows you to enjoy the dish like you never have before. Much the same way, numerous dishes carry with them a comforting nostalgia, earning the title of "comfort food" as they are sought after time and again.
In South India, rasam embodies this sentiment. A comforting, steaming bowl of this rich and nourishing concoction has the power to soothe. Rasam, a traditional broth or soup, hinges on tamarind juice as its foundation and comprises a melange of ingredients, including Indian sesame oil, turmeric, tomato, chilli pepper, black pepper, garlic, cumin, curry leaves, mustard, coriander, asafoetida, sea salt, and water.
The ingredients are also known for their medicinal and healing properties. For instance, tamarind and cumin aid digestion, while turmeric boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic supports immunity, and black pepper adds a stimulating touch while driving away colds, coughs, and flu. And ginger works wonders with digestive and gut issues.
Rasam is a broth that makes its way into the daily diets of most South Indian households in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, where it is known by many names. While it is known as rasam in Tamil and Malayalam, it is called thili saaru (runny broth or soup) in Kannada and chaaru, which means essence, in Telugu.
And if you are a meat lover who prefers to savour the taste of the meat and yet eat something that is light on the palate, there are various non-vegetarian rasam preparations that will get you hooked on the soup like no other dish can. Some crab meat, mutton bone, or country chicken rasam enhances the nutritive and nourishing value of the vegetarian versions that include neem flower or pineapple.
Non-vegetarian rasams comprise protein and healthy fat from meat, poultry, or seafood, which makes this soup a complete meal in many ways. Rasam embodies a fusion of culinary tradition and medicinal knowledge, making it more than just a dish; it's a testament to the harmonious blend of flavours and therapeutic benefits. While garlic, tomato, pepper, pineapple, and drumstick rasam might be popular vegetarian rasams, here are six non-vegetarian varieties of rasam for a balanced meal experience.
Tamil Nadu's famed Crab Rasam, or "Nandu Rasam" in Tamil, ingeniously utilises crab claws, legs, and scraps. The process begins with crushing cumin, chilli peppers, black pepper, shallots, garlic, and ginger. These are then sautéed alongside mustard seeds and curry leaves. The crushed crab remnants are incorporated, undergoing further frying. Next, water is introduced, along with tamarind pulp, chopped coriander stem, and mashed tomatoes. The entire mixture simmers, allowing for the amalgamation of flavours as each ingredient imparts its essence. This spicy crab rasam is a beloved dish in Chettinad households and throughout Tamil Nadu, often relished with steamed rice.
Amma Chettinadu Restaurant, Savya Rasa in Chennai, or Thoondil Restaurant on ECR in Chennai serve some of the best versions of crab rasam that you can relish along with other varieties. Chef Thomas Zacharias has earlier taken to Instagram to express how much he enjoyed nandu rasam on his visit to Karaikudi. His caption read, "Crab Rasam is a thing! And at @thebangala, it’s made so well I could replace my morning coffee with it!"
Mutton Nenjelumbu Rasam
Mutton bones or goat legs are often boiled along with some turmeric, salt, and pepper for over an hour or two to extract the nutritive value and essence of the meat completely. The broth that is extracted is used to make the rasam. This broth is so flavourful and packed with energy that a cup of this rasam, boiled with garlic, turmeric, and black pepper, hits the right spot when you have the sniffles or are under the weather.
This rasam, when savoured on its own, can feel so refreshing. Most of them sip on this nourishing soup as a remedy for colds and flu and to drive away coughs. Restaurants serving Chettinad cuisine often serve meat-based rasam in Chennai and outside Tamil Nadu. Savya Rasa in Chennai or Sri Kamatchi in Biryani Veedu in Pondicherry are some popular places to try mutton nenjelumbu rasam. They serve it with short-grain rice. Paired with a mutton side dish or a fried fish, this combination can become your go-to comfort food.
Royya Pottu Chaaru
This is a rasam that is famously prepared in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The chaaru or rasam in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is made from dried shrimp heads or shrimps, which are soaked in hot water first to clean and soften. It is then fried and ground into a fine powder or pulpy paste before being added to the boiling rasam, which comprises tomatoes, garlic, cumin, pepper, ginger, tamarind, and onions.
In Tamil Nadu, fresh prawn heads are used. They are first boiled with a lot of water. The prawn head-infused water is strained and used as the base to make rasam afterwards. Some people prefer to add the prawn heads towards the end of making the rasam and set aside the cooked prawn heads on a separate plate to serve along with the rasam and rice.
As the protein-packed, spicy aroma wafts through the air, the appetite opens up like the sea to devour mounds of rice with this prawn-head bisque. The tomatoes, garlic, and black pepper only enhance the flavours, which might make you call for a greedy helping after having eaten to your heart's content.
Oxtail rasam is another meaty twist to this tomato and tamarind broth with pepper and garlic that can be your instant comfort food on any day. While it may not be the most popular favourite of the meat-based rasams, it is enjoyed for its deep meaty flavours and healthy fat content during the monsoon and winter seasons. The oxtail broth is extracted by cooking it in a pressure cooker, and the rasam is further prepared by cooking it further with the oxtail chunks, which makes this a bowlful of comfort that can, or not, be paired with rice to enjoy.
Naatu Kozhi Rasam
Naatu kozhi rasam, a broth made from free-range country chicken, carries a rich cultural heritage and is often prepared in temples like Kali Kovil in Tamil Nadu during special occasions when a hen is sacrificed and chicken is offered as prasadam. This spicy and flavourful rasam isn't just a religious tradition; it's also a time-honoured home remedy for colds and flu.
Kozhi rasam is a widely popular meat-based rasam in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Made from country chicken, this pepper-infused concoction offers numerous health benefits. Apart from its effectiveness in treating colds and coughs, it aids in overall digestion and provides energy. Prepared without additional oil, the soup derives its richness from the natural chicken fat.
When using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it transforms into a healthy and wholesome soup that can be enjoyed with rice or roti. The Andhra-style chicken Rayalaseema rasam at Karnatic in JP Nagar and Nattu Kozhi Milagu Rasam (country chicken pepper rasam) at Anjappar, a Chettinad restaurant in Bengaluru, are two places to try out the chicken-flavoured rasam.
Chettinadu Crab Rasam Recipe
Here is a recipe for nandu or crab rasam to sip on and enjoy this monsoon season:
For Rasam Podi:
3 tablespoons of coriander seeds
7 dried red chillies
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon toor dal
2 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 medium shallots, peeled and chopped
7 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
For the Rasam:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, pounded
1 medium tomato, pounded
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
10–12 curry leaves
400 grams of crab (crab claws and legs, preferably)
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons of tamarind pulp
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
For Rasam Podi:
In a dry pan, roast the coriander seeds, red chilies, and peppercorns for about a minute.
Add the toor dal and cumin seeds to the pan. Continue roasting until the dal and cumin start to lightly brown.
Remove the roasted spices from the heat and allow them to cool.
Grind the roasted spices into a coarse powder using a mixer or mortar and pestle.
Add the chopped shallots and garlic to the spice mixture and continue pounding until well combined.
For The Rasam:
Heat oil in a pressure cooker. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and chopped onions.
Sauté the onions until they become translucent, then add the tomatoes and curry leaves. Cook for an additional 2–3 minutes.
Add the crab (or crab claws) and mix well, sautéing for about 2 minutes.
Pour in 4 cups of water, add salt, and close the lid of the pressure cooker.
Once the pressure builds up, reduce the flame and let it cook for about 7–8 minutes.
Allow the steam to escape before opening the pressure cooker lid.
Add the prepared rasam podi (you can use half of it), tamarind pulp, and some water if needed to achieve the desired rasam consistency.
Boil the rasam for about 3–4 minutes, then remove it from the heat.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve it as a shorba or with fluffy steamed rice.