Friday, June 02, 2006

Melting Pot - Rasam


Tomato Rasam

No.... it's not what you think. The words "Melting Pot" do evoke notions of spices mingling, flavors blending and tastes mixing, but in this post, it literally means "the melting pot" as in a pot...melting...slowly...on the fire.

Picture this - shy, blushing, newly-married bride arrives at the in-laws home. After a couple of days of getting to know everyone, MIL kindly suggests that the bride makes "rasam" as her son has raved about the rasam-making prowess of his bride. Bride meekly nods head thinking "ok, rasam...not a big deal...I can do this"

MIL points to all the ingredients in the pantry and takes out a shiny pot. Unbeknownst to the bride, this no ordinary pot. It is called "Eeya Chombu" and is an amalgam of various metals that when ingested in the recommended quantities are supposed to provide health benefits to the body. Bride dutifully puts the vessel on the flame and starts sauteing the tomatoes. It is a new trick she has devised you see - to saute the tomatoes in 1/2 tsp of ghee to coax out extra flavor from them.

As she is doing this, she notices a few drops on the stove. Not wanting to dirty the shiny surface of the stove, she wipes off the drops with a wet rag. A few minutes later, she notices a few more drops. Again, the wet rag comes out...dab..dab. A few more minutes and there is now a steady trickle on the stove. Bride is confused and is staring at this with mouth agape thinking "What is going on? Where are all these drops coming from"?

MIL walks in at this moment to check on the progress. She notices the drops and says "Oh, oh...the pot it melting. You always have to add water to this pot before you put in on a naked flame". She quickly grabs the hot, melting pot and drops it in the sink. The cold water sizzles on the hot pot and halts any further melting.

Bride is by now mortified by her first attempt to cook and impress the inlaws. Forget about the intended aroma and the heavenly taste of the rasam, she has effectively destroyed a valuable family heirloom.

Fortunately, MIL is very understanding and laughs the whole thing off. FIL comes in and is very amused. He says that MIL, in her days has "melted" quite a few pots like this. Perhaps it is true, perhaps they are in their nice way, just trying to make the new bride feel better.

Out comes another pot, more tomatoes and the rasam is bubbling and boiling its way to deliciousness. Lunch is served shortly after and everyone nods approvingly over the rasam.

Bride resolves to never use the "saute" method for rasam again just in case the pot is guessed it..."A Melting Pot".

Flash forward a few years - Bride is a proud owner of her own "Eeya Chombu" and has used it for a few years with no major mishaps. A few dents and nicks but it is still in one piece. She still pulls it out regularly to make an aromatic pot of rasam.

You may have guessed by now that the bride is none other than yours truly! Fortunately I haven't had any major mishaps with the Eeya chombu after that incident. I still use it regularly and love the charateristic flavor it imparts to the rasam.

There is some misunderstanding with the name "Eeya" with regards to this vessel. Eeyam means lead, but there is no lead involved in the making of this vessel. It is primarily an alloy of tin and other metals. And of course, rasam can be made in other vessels also, if you don't have a Eeeya chombu or are not comfortable using one.

Southindians will attest there are hundreds of varieties of rasam - tomato rasam, ginger-garlic rasam, pineapple rasam, curry leaves rasam etc. I've even heard about an apple rasam!! The most popular one still remains tomato rasam.

This particular recipe is a sort of instant rasam. There is no dal in the rasam so it can be made in a jiffy. The recipe is from a good friend of mine, S.

So, here it is - a bowl of amber goodness- Tomato Rasam.


For Rasam powder:

1 measure jeera seeds
1/2 - 3/4 measure black peppercorns
1 measure tur dal
1 measure udal dal

[Note: measure can be a 1 cup measure or any other measure that you choose. Just stick to the proportions and make as much powder as you wish. I usually use 1 cup measure and get about 3 cups of the powder. It keeps very well in an airtight container]

For Rasam:
2 ripe tomatoes or 1/2 can of tomato sauce (Hunts)
2 tsp rasam powder (see recipe)
1 tsp ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
4-5 curry leaves
1 dried red chilli
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small piece of jaggery to taste
salt to taste
cilantro leaves for garnish

Method for Rasam Powder:
  1. Dry roast all the ingredients and powder to a fine powder in a coffee grinder
  2. Sieve to remove all the coarse grains
  3. Store the finely ground powder in an airtight container
Method for Rasam:

  1. Boil the tomatoes and tamarind if using and squeeze to extract all the juice. This step can be done in the microwave. I often omit the tamarind and just use tomatoes.
  2. You can also use 1/2 a can of tomato sauce (Hunts works very well)
  3. Add salt and jaggery to taste.
  4. Boil the tomato mixture till it is hot and bubbly and smells good.
  5. Dissolve the rasam powder in a little bit of water. This is to avoid it forming lumps when dropped in the hot liquid.
  6. Stir the rasam powder in the tomato mixture and let boil for 3-4 minutes. It does not need much cooking or boiling after this.
  7. Heat the ghee in a small saucepan.
  8. Add mustard seeds, jeera seeds and asafoetida.
  9. When the seeds splutter, add the red chilli, crushed garlic and curry leaves.
  10. Pour the seasoning over the rasam.
  11. Sprinkle with chopped corriander leaves and serve.

I will be on vacation in India for a few weeks. So my posts will be sporadic from now on. Thanks so much for all the enquiries about our little one. I could not respond to each of you individually, but I truly feel humbled that so many of you reached out to me and for the words of encouragement. She is doing better, and we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that she will be ok on the trip. I'll try to post food pictures from our trip. Have a great summer everyone!!!


At Fri Jun 02, 09:41:00 AM 2006, Blogger Vineela said...

Hi SH,
Nice to see you back.Nice write up about melting pot.
Take care of your little one and have a happy vacation.

At Fri Jun 02, 11:16:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Manisha said...

SH, thanks for a terrific rasam recipe. I love rasam! Maybe when you get back from your vacation, you can do an authentic sambar recipe, too?

I am so glad your daughter is doing well. She will do just fine on the trip! Has she travelled to India before? Children bounce back so quickly that she'll definitely have a blast!

Have a great vacation!

At Fri Jun 02, 11:58:00 AM 2006, Blogger Krithika said...

SH, you have "Eeya Chombu" at home ? I am really jealous now :-)I can bet that this rasam will taste heavenly. Interesting story, BTW. Have fun in India.

At Fri Jun 02, 01:33:00 PM 2006, Blogger Nabeela said...

you're back!! we missed you.
I looked at your page every single day to see if you had updated:)
have a fun trip to india..and be careful of the hot weather there...drink lots of water and keep out of the sun as much as possible.

At Fri Jun 02, 02:24:00 PM 2006, Anonymous shilpa said...

Thats an interesting and funny post SH. Have a safe and happy journey.

At Fri Jun 02, 04:23:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Aparna T said...

We missed you! I am so glad that you daughter is fine now and that you are back!

Have fun in India and be safe.

At Fri Jun 02, 07:58:00 PM 2006, Blogger RP said...

SH, glad to see you back with another wonderful story and recipe. Have a great summer. Hope your little one will do fine during the trip. Have a safe journey.

At Fri Jun 02, 11:49:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Lera said...

Rasam , indeed an aromatic flavourful melting pot for all the spices.....:) happy Vacation.

At Sat Jun 03, 12:27:00 AM 2006, Anonymous sher said...

What a lovely story!!!! That is wonderful news about your daughter. I hope your trip is all that you hope and more. We will await your return, with more stories.

At Sat Jun 03, 01:15:00 AM 2006, Blogger Menu Today said...

Hi SH,
Have a happy vacation.I too prepare Rasam in Eeya-Chombu, it tastes great.

At Sat Jun 03, 01:50:00 AM 2006, Blogger Sumitha said...

It was so nice to see your post today!Never heard of Eeya chembo,was nice to read about it saffron.
Have a wonderful trip to India.I will miss you for sure.
Wishing you a happy and a safe journey!

At Sat Jun 03, 07:33:00 AM 2006, Blogger shammi said...

Saffron Hut, how nice to see another recipe/anecdote from you :) Have a fantastic time in India!

At Sat Jun 03, 07:37:00 AM 2006, Anonymous santhi said...

glad ur lil one feeling better now..

Have a great vacation Saffron & Family :)

At Sat Jun 03, 10:27:00 AM 2006, Blogger KrishnaArjuna said...

Never heard about this special pot for making rasam but the story was really good, I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the end.
Have a nice trip!

At Sat Jun 03, 03:38:00 PM 2006, Blogger Ashwini said...

Hey Saffron, good to see you back. What a lovely story - I think incidents like these actually make it easier to get along with the new family :-)
The pot sounds like it is made of panchadhatu - thats what we call an alloy made of five metals?
Have a safe and wonderful trip to India. I am glad your daughter is doing better. I am sure she will enjoy herself thoroughly in India. Have fun while you are there!!!

At Sun Jun 04, 08:23:00 AM 2006, Anonymous sailaja said...

Great to have you back with a "melting pot" of "amber goodness"..:)
Nice to know the lil one is doing well. Have a great vacation!!

At Sun Jun 04, 08:41:00 AM 2006, Blogger Revathi said...

Hi SH,
Have a wonderful trip back home !! Come back with nice authentic kitchen tools, fotos of beloved home and neighbourhood, and ofcourse treasured memories.

Wishing you a lovely, lovely trip and prayers that your whole family will be in best of good health during and after the trip !


At Mon Jun 05, 05:30:00 AM 2006, Blogger Garam Masala said...

Saffron, Great to see you back, with great pictures and fun writeup.

Have an enjoyable vacation!

At Tue Jun 06, 02:31:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Vaishali said...

Great to see you again, SH. A great recipe and a very enjoyable write-up. You go, have a good time in India. In the meanwhile, we will keep sipping on the Rasam.

At Tue Jun 06, 07:28:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey saffronhut,
Good you blogged a great post before leaving! Have a great trip!
Never heard of eeya chembu. I always thought metal is not good for sour dishes. And whoa! a melting pot.thats one great tip.

At Tue Jun 06, 07:16:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Indira said...

That's a funny read.:)

Have a wonderful time in India!

At Thu Jun 08, 03:17:00 AM 2006, Blogger Puspha said...

Hope ur dgtr is fine now. Have a wonderful trip back home.

At Sat Jun 10, 03:21:00 AM 2006, Blogger Mahek said...

saffron hut
nice to see you put up a post i regularly check your blogs to see if you have anything new/
where do you get all those pots and pans that you feature in your photos they look good

At Sat Jun 10, 05:46:00 PM 2006, Blogger Luv2cook said...


I am trying to make this rasam recipe now but didn't know how much rasam powder to use? I am going to use about a 1 tbsp and hopefully that is good? I guess I will see....

At Sun Jun 11, 09:20:00 PM 2006, Blogger Reshma said...

That is such a lovely story Safrron! have a great vacation.

At Tue Jun 13, 01:38:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much rasam powder does one add,also how much water do you add to half a can of hunts tomato sauce.
Its an idea for your web site, you could add the number of people you make your receipes for.

At Thu Jun 15, 01:41:00 PM 2006, Blogger Kay said...

A new bride and a melting pot! What a story :)

I've heard about these melting pots made in kumbakonam and was wondering about the 'Eeyam' in it. Thanks for clarifying that, Saffron. Hope your daughter feels better soon.

At Sun Jun 18, 09:50:00 PM 2006, Blogger Mahek said...

saffron hut
pls tell me where do you get all your vessels in the US they are so traditional and apt for the dishes that you make
you know i love crockery, vessels may they be of any metal so whenever i read a cookbook i also see what type of vessels they use and you have lovely terracotta pots too.
do you carry all the stuff from india

At Mon Jun 19, 06:32:00 AM 2006, Blogger tilotamma said...

Sorry to be the pesky chemistry student here but "amalgam" /amalgamation is a term used only when Mercury is one of the metals in the alloy.

For a eeya chombu there is no Hg in the mix.

At Thu Jun 22, 11:41:00 PM 2006, Blogger Sowjanya said...

Thats a cute traditional vessel. Where did you get that saffron. The rasam in that pot looks so cute.

At Fri Jun 23, 11:54:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anu said...

When I saw the picture, I thought what a cute pot, then the writeup told me what it was. Thats the first time I heard of such a pot .... Thank you for the writeup ...

Enjoy ur trip ..

At Sat Jul 01, 02:34:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Rojakx said...

Taste good..just try it for dinner..thumbs up

At Mon Jul 03, 05:36:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Pria Balasubramaniam said...

Are you still not back yet? I have finsihed almost all the recipes on your blog - I am dying to try out more. The rasam was good. The ridgegourd curry was superb. But the best is still the "Vegetarian Mutton Kurma".


At Fri Jul 14, 04:55:00 PM 2006, Blogger Latha said...

Hi Saffron,

This is my nth time on your site. Unfortunately, I was introduced to your site only after u left for India.
I love your site, your stories and your recipes, not to mention the pictures! I have devoured every page possible.
I already miss you and your posts! Do come back soon :-)

At Thu Jul 20, 07:45:00 PM 2006, Blogger Priya said...

Hi Saffron,
Its been a couple of months since we've seen u arnd the blog world. Hope all is fine and the little one is back in high spirits. Hope to see u back soon.
And I started a blog after having followed urs for quite sometime.

At Wed Aug 02, 12:21:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, how come nobody has pointed out yet that "eeyam" is lead and don't we all know what consuming anything with lead in it leads to? Sure it might "taste" different and arguably, "better" but at what cost?

At Wed Aug 02, 07:32:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Manisha said...

Hey Anon, according to this, it is not lead. HTH!

At Sat Aug 12, 07:18:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anita said...

Nice story...I'm sure many of us can relate...ILs with great sense of humor too! I must remember to look out for this pot next time I travel down south.

At Mon Aug 21, 02:20:00 PM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Luv2Cook My response to your query is really, really late! but your instinct is right, 1 tbsp or 2 tsp should work great. I've updated the post as well.

Tilo Thanks for the insight. I learned something new today! I used the term "amalgam" very loosely to imply "mixture" :-)

sowjanya The vessel is from India. Chennai to be more accurate. It is available in all the stores where steel vessels are usually found.

Latha awww, thanks! and welcome to my blog :-)

At Sat Sep 02, 02:57:00 AM 2006, Blogger HariPriya said...

tht`s a wonderful rasam...i cant wait ,i will prepare today itself...
thnx for the wonderful recipe

in the mean time pls chk my little site

At Wed Oct 11, 05:53:00 PM 2006, Blogger tilotamma said...


At Wed Oct 11, 07:41:00 PM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Tilotamma Interesting read! Am curious to know why you sent me the link. Do drop me a line at if you don't mind.


At Tue Oct 24, 08:38:00 PM 2006, Blogger tilotamma said...

Oh because your picture reminded me of that ancient custom :-)

At Thu Oct 26, 04:36:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi SH,

My 'eeya chombu' has lasted a very long time because I make the rasam, then pour it boiling hot into the chombu and cover it. After a couple of hours the rasam tastes heavenly!

At Mon Jan 29, 12:03:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Tarang said...


I am *HUGE* fan of your blog and the pictures on the blog!! Seriously - how do you do it. Everytime I look at it, I wonder if I could give you a call and get your secrets :).

I tried your recipe of rasam and tomato rice yesterday - and turned out awesome!

But looking at your rasam - I had two questions:
1) In the recipe, you don't point out adding water to the tomato paste to make it thinner. I ask that becuase I am not too sure about rasam consistency (water:tomato).
2) The rasam powder that I made was wheatish in color, there was no ingrediant to make it darker, as it is in those readymade packets. I was wondering if I missed something. In fact, the rasam in the bloc-picture looks pretty dark (black, as opposed to tomato-red color that I got).

Thanks again!

At Mon Feb 05, 04:21:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Saffron

Tomto Rasam looked yummy. Perfect for the cold weather out here. I tried Mangalore rasam given by Chitvish. Came out slurrrpy!!

At Sat Feb 17, 06:46:00 PM 2007, Blogger MAJ K said...

Here is another blog post about Rasam:

At Mon Apr 09, 02:31:00 PM 2007, Blogger Sandhya Oza said...

This very same incident happened to me...just that i wasnt the blushing bride and it was few years into my mom bought me the vessel and i did the exact same thing...

At Tue Jun 05, 05:04:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Brinda said...

Hi Saffron Hut,

I just discoverd your blog couple of days ago and I must say I am extremely impressed. Your writting and photography skills are excellent. I am eager to try out your spinach-aloo-paneer parathas and will do so this weekend.
My "Eeya Chombu" was a wedding gift from my grandma, but I'm scared to use it as I have an electric stovetop and not a gas stovetop. I always make my rasam in an stainless steel pathram and tranfer it into the chombu after I have made it. Do you think its safe to use it on an Electric Stovetop?

At Sat Nov 03, 11:36:00 AM 2007, Blogger Rekha said...

Hi Saffron Hut,
Thank you for sharing such a nice incident and a lovely receipe. I am impressed by you writing .Have a nice vacation

At Sat Nov 03, 11:36:00 AM 2007, Blogger Rekha said...

Hi Saffron Hut,
Thank you for sharing such a nice incident and a lovely receipe. I am impressed by you writing .Have a nice vacation

At Fri Jan 04, 10:50:00 PM 2008, Anonymous mrskishor said...

hello saffron hut.
nice to see your rasam recipe .
recently my husband got this eeya
chambu from andhra we call it 'sattu ginne'.my grand mothers and my mother used to make excellent rasam in that vessel. my husband remembers that and thats how he got this chambu from kerala.
and i started making rasam in it and it is tasting wonderful.
and thanks for the receipe.

At Wed Feb 13, 09:51:00 AM 2008, Anonymous rama ananth said...

I just came across ur blog when i was searching for the harmful effects of cooking or making Rasam in alead vessal. Though I love the taste of rasam made in that,I also am aware of the side effects of cooking in that vessal.ONe can get lead poisoning which can lead to blindness, memory loss, muscle loss and all kinds of neurological complications.
But i am unable to understand why for years it had been used by the rasam makers, and did they die due to some poison which leached through their cooking. Perhaps the Doctors of those days did not have the means to defintiely point to the use of lead as the cause of death. I am totally confused and also you say that it is not made of lead, that it is a amalgam of differnt metals.Although i was aware of the side effects I still could resist the temptation to buy a cute lead shombu to make my rasam.The taste is heavenly, however i dont want to fall sick and be a source of introducing some incurable condition for my family. I think the best option would be for me to keep it as a show piece thats all.
It was great reading through your blog.

At Fri Nov 21, 01:01:00 PM 2008, Anonymous Nisha said...

Hi Saffron Hut,
i came across ur blog while searching for badam halwa recipe..and melting pot caught my eye..My Mil had the same experience after her marriage and my Mother too and my grandmother..Man, i was just scared to touch that vessel when my Mil handed it to me :D
But heavenly taste, yes !
Will get back to u after i try out ur fail-safe, halwa recipe.

At Wed Jan 12, 11:24:00 PM 2011, Blogger honey said...

Nice reading your blog by

At Fri Feb 03, 01:52:00 PM 2012, Blogger Anuraga said...

Very interesting, and Im so intrigued by this 'Eeya Chombu'. I would like to get one too, could you suggest where I could? Thanks you.

At Fri Mar 22, 09:38:00 PM 2013, Blogger Anamika said...

This is a great blog...however, I have a question about your rasam recipe. How much water do we add to the 1/2 cup of tomato sauce? In your recipe there is no mention of that and as far as I know rasam consistency is like water.


At Fri Mar 22, 09:39:00 PM 2013, Blogger Anamika said...

This is a great blog...however, I have a question about your rasam recipe. How much water do we add to the 1/2 cup of tomato sauce? In your recipe there is no mention of that and as far as I know rasam consistency is like water.


At Sun Jul 03, 09:50:00 PM 2016, Blogger sneha sri said...

nice blog
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