The rain didn’t let up yesterday, so rather than face the cold wet farmers market I decided to visit the Jai Ho Indian grocery store to pick up some ingredients I can’t find at my normal spots.
Jai Ho was recommended to me by Anjan Mitra, a friend and owner of San Francisco’s premier South Indian restaurant Dosa. I’m a huge fan of Dosa and recently interviewed Anjan for an article about lentils and their health benefits I wrote for Edible SF.
I’m delighted to report that Anjan was nice enough to share his amazing Rasam “fire broth” recipe for lentil soup, which I’ll publish here at Summer Tomato tomorrow.
Today I want to share some of the ingredients that go into the soup, since they may not be familiar to those of you who don’t have experience cooking Indian food.
The soup is based on a type of lentil (“dal” in Hindi) called toor dal, or pigeon peas. Toor dal are medium sized yellow lentils that fall apart easily when cooked through. You should be able to find them at any Indian grocery store.
The recipe also calls for wet tamarind pulp, the kind sold in blocks. The one I got actually had chunks of stems in there, which I had to pick out.
Asafetida is a potent smelling herb that comes in powder form. This was the first time I had worked with it so I had to check Wikipedia to see exactly what it is. Apparently asafetida is also known as “devil’s dung” but, ironically, is a known antiflatulent. How have I never heard of this stuff?
The only other ready ground spice used in the recipe is turmeric, which some research suggests may help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. You can find ground turmeric at any grocery store.
As you might expect, the soup calls for several sources of heat. The first are dried red chili peppers. I used my own Thai dragon peppers I dried last summer, but any form of red chili works here.
Some of the heat also comes from a generous portion of black peppercorns, which are ground together with several other spices that form the main flavors of the soup.
The other spices in the mixture are cumin and coriander seeds. Mustard seeds are also called for, though these are added whole and are not ground with the other spices.
One of the hardest to find ingredients for the recipe is fresh curry leaves. The recipe is very explicit that if you cannot find them you should leave them out and under no circumstances substitute ground curry powder. I was able to find fresh leaves at Jai Ho, and their flavor was more subtle than I expected.
And of course, don’t forget your garlic.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Dosa’s rasam recipe.