By Naini Setalvad August 2011 Slurp up some spicy and sharp rasam this monsoon to keep you fighting fit and raring to go The much awaited monsoon is finally here. Though the temperature is cooler, the monsoon also heralds the arrival of a host of diseases. In order to ward these off, it is important to eat foods that will boost immunity and support you to stay healthy. One such food item is rasam. Rasam is simply a South Indian soup. There are many varieties of it, but all varieties use certain super healthy ingredients. On a cool, rainy day, the sharp and spicy rasam diffuses a comforting warmth within, and zips up your health quotient.Read on to know the health benefits of each of the ingredients that goes into the famous spicy hot rasam. Asafoetida (hing)This is an anti-oxidant and is also anti-inflammatory. It is excellent for fighting coughs and colds. It is great for respiratory diseases such as asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis. It is also great for flatulence and indigestion. Cumin seeds (jeera) Jeera produces coolness in the body, which counterbalances the spice of the rasam. In fact, it calms the stomach – especially when a person has mild cramps due to indigestion or flatulence. Cumin is good when a person has nausea or diarrhoea – a common phenomenon in the monsoons!Curry leaves (kari patta) This leaf is rich in antioxidants, keeping you protected from within when all sorts of air and water-borne diseases are flying about. It also contains vitamin C which, apart from acting like an anti-oxidant, keeps the hair, skin and eyes healthy even in the monsoon. Curry leaves are great to slow down greying of the hair. Garlic (lasan) Garlic is mucus drying. It is also a powerful anti-oxidant. A combination of these would definitely keep most monsoon diseases at bay. It also generates heat in the body, a must in the monsoon. Garlic combats gas, stomach inflammation, stomach worms, colitis, dysentery, diarrhoea and indigestion as well. Garlic also prevents aches and pains in the joints. Turmeric powder (haldi) Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, boosting the body’s immunity. It is also anti-histamine, and helps prevent coughs and colds. Turmeric relieves all sorts of intestinal disorders and is therefore the best thing to have if you think you have had too much street food in the monsoon. Turmeric is also a great blood purifier.Red chilli (lal mirchi) Red chilli is known to help relieve congestion in the respiratory system, especially sinus. it produces heat in the body because of the presence of capsaicin. It also causes the nose to run. Red chillies are anti-inflammatory and help those with joint pains which act up during the monsoon. Black pepper (kalimiri) Black pepper is known to stimulate the taste buds in a way that secretes the right juices in the stomach, improving digestion. Black pepper is also known to keep the joints and the respiratory system healthy. It is anti-bacterial as well. Black pepper also produces heat in the body and promotes sweating and urinating which is useful to maintain our water balance in the monsoon.Onion (pyaaz) Onions are traditional decongestants. They are used as a cure to colds, coughs, bronchitis and influenza. They are also used to treat cholera – rampant in this weather. They are anti-inflammatory, good for the joints and make the skin glow.Tomato (tamater)Tomatoes are an excellent source of calcium. They are packed with anti-oxidants, contain vitamin C and vitamin A and are therefore excellent for the hair, skin and eyes. These anti-oxidants also keep you protected against colds and coughs which can occur rather often in the winter.Coconut and gheeBoth of these are excellent sources of healthy fat. They help to absorb vitamins A and E that are provided by the other ingredients of rasam. They also keep you insulated, warm and perk up the immunity. Ghee keeps the joints lubricated.An amalgamation of all these ingredients results in a delectable soup which insulates you from the ill-effects of the monsoon.RasamIngredients1 cup tuvar dal (cooked)1 ball of lemon size tamarind 1 tsp mustard seeds1 tsp chana dal1 onion (chopped)2 tomatoes (chopped)half tsp asafoetida2 tsp coriander seeds4 tsp pepper corns2 tbsp grated coconut2-3 dry red chillies2-3 cloves1 tsp turmeric powdercoriander leaves for garnishingcurry leavesgheesalt to tasteMethodSoak tamarind in water and extract the juiceIn a pan add tomatoes, tamarind extract, turmeric powder, salt and cook till the tomatoes are soft and a delicious aroma is releasedHeat 1 tsp ghee, sauté the coriander seeds, pepper corns, chana dal, red chillies and cloves Saute onions till pinkGrind them with coconut to form a soft pasteAdd the paste, tuvar dal and curry leaves to the tomato mixture. Add water to make it a liquid consistency and bring it to a boilThen simmer for 10 minsHeat ghee, add mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves and season the rasam with thisGarnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.
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