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Features

Rasam from pot to shot

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CHENNAI: It’s a soup but served in the middle of a meal. It’s south Indian but has an English cousin. And now it’s switched from being an accompaniment to an aperitif. The most versatile of south Indian soups, the rasamhas shed its homely avatar for racier ones. While in some restaurants it is being served as a beverage before you dig into your meal, others have spiced it up further with a dash of alcohol.

It nestles in a martini glass at Savya Rasa, the recently launched south Indian eatery in Kotturpuram. The rasamtini — chilled pineapple rasam with lemon juice, sugar syrup, roasted jeera and additional spices — is a hit with customers. “At our restaurant in Pune, where we have 10 signature cocktails, it is served with vodka. Here, we use the same recipe minus the alcohol,” says Kathiravan Govindaraj, head of operations, Savya Rasa, adding the rasam is a refreshing yet complex drink. “We wanted to take something that’s common but make it something different and tasty,” he says.

And what better than the rasam, the south Indian soup that inspired the British to create the Mulligatawny? Traditionally, in a south Indian meal, sambar is served first, with side dishes, followed by rasam and curd. The tangy rasam, redolent with spices, is believed to be a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. “We have different varieties of rasam – with pepper, dal and neem flower. It is good for digestion and has a host of benefits,” says dietitian Dharini Krishnan. “The neem flower rasam helps maintain immunity while the long pepper is believed to help reduce fever. Different types of rasam are also served to women after birth to bring their digestive system back to normal,” she adds. Tamarind, the base for all the varieties, is also beneficial, adding iron to the diet. It is also believed to boost immunity and have anti-inflammatory properties.

At Southern Spice in Taj Coromandel, the rasam is served as a shot before dinner or as a welcome drink in high-end banquets, says executive chef Sujan Mukherjee. “People like it as they think it helps clear the throat and also has other health benefits. And though we have traditional black pepper, and coriander rasams, we sometimes give it an infusion of lemongrass and basil to give it a twist,” he adds.

The unique flavour of the rasam is also being used to give cocktails that extra punch. At Chipstead, you attain Nirvana. “That’s what we call the rasam and vodka based cocktail we serve,” says Mukherjee.

Arasu Dennis of AD Associates, which acts as consultant to seven bars in the city, says the beverage will play a key role in his yet-to-be-launched venture. “I plan to launch a restobar on south Indian fusion street food, where we will serve fusion food, such as panipuri with rasam,” he says. “It is a local and traditional dish, so we will be placing more stress on the rasam.”

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