22 May, 2007

Nimbu Saaru/Lemon Rasam

Sometime ago I watched a really well presented documentary which highlighted the issue of child obesity in UK. Although I am very much aware of the growing issue about obesity all around the world, this documentary made me realise how obesity has become more like a social plague. We are talking about one of the biggest growing problem here. Although some people seemed to suggest the main cause for obesity is genetic, research shows that the main cause has got to do with diet and eating habit within the family rather than genetic.
We have become a fast food generation country with fast food restaurants springing up everywhere like wild mushrooms and junk food readily available. Just take a tour in our supermarket and you will be surprised to see the shelves packed with ready to eat foods which contain very high levels of sugar and unhealthy fat. Talking with one of my colleague made me realise, gone are the days of home cooked meals in many homes. Healthy and nutritious home cooked meals have been replaced by take-away food or ready to eat microwave meals. And more shocking thing was the increase in growing number of parents who chose to take their children out to eat rather preparing meals at home. No wonder it costs the NHS more than £500 million a year to tackle this issue.
While growing up our parents always made it a point that we kids spent minimum 2 hours of our day in some physical activity and burning most of the calories gained from eating. Now days, I feel sad to see kids spending more time in front of TV or computer playing video game or computer game. We can very much understand the amount of calories they will be able to burn off sitting on a couch. Amma used to cook every meal at home. Weekday meals were simple home cooked meals where Amma would add lots of greens and vegetables with little spices and very little oil. Like most of the kids, we too took it for granted and always looked forward to our once in a blue moon visit to restaurants. My Appa was not very fond of restaurant food and he prefered home cooked food to any star hotel food. I remember the times when we kids would happily eat all spicy and oily curries and he would quietly enjoy his South Indian Thali and a bowl of his favorite Tomato soup. Even today, he prefers Boiled Rice with Ganji for breakfast. No wonder he looks younger and younger as the years pass. His mantra for good health is Healthy food with regular exercise and it indeed is the best weapon to fight the problem of over-weight and obesity.
Simple Saaru/Rasam with roasted papad and pickle is something which was always served at our everyday meal with other usual Sambar and Palyas. Nimbu Saaru or Lemon Rasam is one of the first dishes I learnt from my mother. It is very comforting dish of red lentils cooked with turmeric and blended with lemon juice, finely chopped tomatoes, green chilli and ginger and finally tempered with aromatic cumin seeds and curry leaves. The simplicity of this dish makes it very special and comforting. Serve it with Chapati or with just plain Rice and Papad or just drink it as a soup and I bet you will have very satisfying look on your face.

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Nimbu Saaru with Rice & Papad

Nimbu Saaru
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 3-4
¾ cup Toor Dal/Masoor Dal
1 large Tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsp Onion, finely chopped
2-3 Green Chilli, slit
1 inch Ginger, crushed
3-4 tbsp Lemon Juice
Samll Jaggary Piece
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Mustard
1 Dry Red Chilli, broken
Pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
Few Curry Leaves
1 tsp Ghee/Oil

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Nimbu Saaru

Add turmeric powder, a tsp of oil and 1 and half cups of water to the toor/masoor dal and cook it in pressure cooker for 10-15 minutes until done. Cool the cooker before opening the lid.
Lightly mash the dal and transfer it into heavy bottomed vessel.
To this add chopped onion, tomato, slit green chillies, crushed ginger, jaggary, two cups of water and salt to taste.
Cook this on a medium flame for 10 minutes till it starts to boil.
Reduce the flame and add little more water if desired and cook for further 5 minutes till all the flavours blend well.
Turn off the gas and mix lemon juice to it. You can add more lemon juice based on your preference.
In a tempering pan heat ghee and add jeera, mustard, curry leaves and hing. When mustard starts to pop and splutter transfer this to the saaru and mix well.
Serve it hot garnished with coriander leaves with rice and papad or chapati.

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Nimbu Saaru with Rice & Papad

Did You Know?
Chaaru, in the Telugu language, means "essence," and, by extension, "juice" or "soup." In former times, it was prepared mainly with black pepper and tamarind, both ingredients native to and abundant in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and South India in general.
Iyengars, a community living in Tamil Nadu from the 7th century CE or earlier, call it Chaathamudhu (Chaaru + Amudhu, the Tamil form of Amrita, ambrosia)[citation needed].
Sourashtras, an immigrant community living in Madurai from the 16th century CE, still refer to it as Pulichaar (Puli = Tamarind + Chaar) (Puli or Pulipu means tart (tamarind)).
The same dish in commonly known as Saaru in Kannada and Chaaru in Telugu. With hoteliers and restaurateurs expanding their joints in South India in the mid-twentieth century, it was popularised and came to be known by its Tamil name as Rasam.
Interestingly, rasam is the basis of mulligatawny soup, which is an Anglo-Indian version of the same.
(Source: wikipedia)

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Nimbu Saaru


  1. if i had to pick one dish to eat every day, it would be rice and this.

  2. Sia,

    Looks delicious, I make it usually with moong dal. Should try toor dal version too

  3. Hi Supi,
    Hey limbu saaru with toor dal.well the authentic way is simple gruel kinda well never tried with toor dal.

  4. Best saaru when having a cold. Did you prepare this when you were sick? Hope you are doing fine now. E saaru nange thumba esta, i don't add tomatoes for this. yummy....

    Truly said sia, ready to eat packs are really fushing in the market, i see most of the bachelors carrying loads of it. At first my h also was amazed by it and did try for the first time but i not a fan of those stuff we came to know how much of fat is involved very oily and also the vege is tasteless as it has lost all of its value there.

  5. That's an awesome post loaded with good pics and info. I agree with you about the growth of fast food restaurants and the decrease of home cooked meals. Actually, I'm very much guilty of not eating healthy foods. Before marriage my mom controlled my diet and I also had the physical excercise of dancing. But now, I have become such an addict to 'everything high in calories'. I know that I'm not setting a good example for my kid, but I'm just not able to resist my temptation when I see junk food & sweets.
    Sorry to write all these here. Anyway, your rasam looks mouth watering. Can't wait to try.

  6. My taste buds are dancing reading your description!!!!:)

  7. Sups am I the first one to comment?Can't believe it :)
    Lemon saaru is looking so tempting. But I have never had saaru with rice ever. I always drink it as a soup. I must try with rice next time.
    The chili on rice and papad next to it makes me droool
    I am waiting for one raw mango to become half ripe so that I can make your Mango rice :) I made your cucumber raita. It was too cool.

  8. Nice write up. fast food and sedentary life style can lead to all sort of health problems.
    Nimbu saaru looks really good.Will try it.

  9. Can I come Sra, Wow, it is so delicious. Viji

  10. I was telling Sandeepa in another post that Rasam meant essence in Sanskrit and that I didn't know the evolution of the word Chaaru though it's Telugu for rasam. I wonder what Charulatha and Charubala mean, they are popular names. Nice explanation, anyway!

  11. This chaaru is one of my favorites. You are right, we have been trained from childhood to prefer home cooked food over restaurant food. If we friends eat out more than 3-4 times in a week we start craving for a good home cooked meal. The outside food just seems like a distraction :)

  12. @bee,
    me too...and also curd rice with pickle....yummmmmm:)

    i too make it using spilt moong dal sometimes but some what we both prefer toor dal for nimbu saaru:)

    this is amma's recipe. we liked it this way:)

  13. Hi Supriya,
    Your version looks different and nice. Will try this soon. Thanks for sharing

  14. Sia, so agree with you, good eating habits learned in childhood last through a lifetime. Thanks to our parents and grand parents.

    Lemon Rasam looks lovely and the pictures are beautiful. Never tried Lemon Rasam shall try this.

  15. @roopa,
    yup...i usually have pepper saaru when i have cold as lemon is not a very good option for cold:)
    oh!! i too agree with u. i prepare home cooked ones to ready meals as atleast we know what goes into it;) i usually limit the oil content in any dishes to minumum. we cant compromise on some things can we?

    thankfully i am not very fond of fried stuff or sweets n candies. whenever i feel the need to eat any sweets or some munchies i open my fruit bowl:) we usually have minimum 6 varieties of fruits at any time of the day so that we dont get bored of eating same fruits. try to buy small amouts of different fruits and have it whenever u crave to eat. although i am a trained classical dancer i dont get enough time to practice. but best thing is i get to walk up and down to my office which takes about half an hour each n it really keeps me fit.

    LOL... i had dry sandwitch just now. so even my taste buds are dancing;)

  16. @archana,
    he he he...u r just like me. most often i too end up drinking saaru:)
    u can use raw mango to make mango rice. just cut the amt of lemon juice to be added in the end coz u will get the sour taste from mango itself. so go ahead and try it girl:)

    very well said prav. thank u for the compliments:)

    i will be honoured to have u here:)

  17. Hello,Sia,you have recovered!!:))
    I love Nimbehannu saaru with Masoor dal,I add pieces of yellow lemon after the saaru comes out of the heat,no tomatoes.Looks great Sups.Simple and delicious.
    Check out my MBP desserts now that you are back!;D

  18. @sra,
    thats interesting piece of info sra. is rasam is derived from sanskrit? charulatha means charming or beautiful. i had a friend by that name back in my primary school.

    i remember the days when i was staying at hostel. there was not a single day when i didn't wish for homecooked meals. very rarely i used to have hotel food as it always gave me bad tummy pain:)

    thank u dear and do let me know how u like it:)

  19. hmm lemon chaaru huh?I have heard of it a lot but never actually tried it.Though I think my MIL prepared this once..will have to try this as rasam is one of the daily items at our meals.

  20. The dish looks yummy...loved your bhindi recipe as well...

  21. @ISG,
    i hated when i was not allowed to eat in restaurants that often. now i am so thankful to them:)

    what??? what is ur main agenda? i am trying to stay away from all the temptations and u are not helping me in any way;)

    there are many ways of making lemon saaru. sometime i use split moon dal in place of toor dal and omit tomatoes. try it some times girl. it is very satisfying meal.

  22. i am getting tempted and know what i started making it.we call it chaaru.

  23. Sia...are we all in a 'eat healthy' propaganda ?:))) The only rasam I know is with tomato and pepper....havent ventured out into variety there :)


  24. Nice write up on Obesity, Sia.....I am amazed at the rate its affecting the kids though....I see kids at the mall, they can't even walk straight, they're that obese. I remember life in India was so busy- being active that I was a stick! But after coming here, and eating all the fat-laden cheeses, sweets....I really have to control myself, I do Yoga daily now..... :)
    Lemon Rasam sounds like heaven, and that and papad on the side...I wish I could come over and have this with you sometime! :)

    you're sick? :(
    Feel better soon....Huggies coming your way!

  25. fantastic...looks just like moong dal with dill recipe...i have to try this one...looks really nice...thanks for sharing...

  26. Sia,
    The rasam looks so comforting..M going to try it for sure..
    I really liked ur write-up. I too feel sad to see that kids spend most of the time sitting at home, watching cable..God, they show such pathetic serials on TV..That was one reason why we never had cable at our place till we finished college..You have really put some beautiful thoughts in this post..Kudos!

  27. Looks yummy, Sup! I loved your bhindi fry in yogurt story! Happens to us all! :)
    I love saaru of any and every kind. The more sour, the better! Nothing like a hot saaru to ward the chills and sore thorats away!Excellent pix, as always!

  28. hey i thot i kept a msg :( anyway
    saaru looks yummy and dal rice is always the ultimate combo, i do not even need the pickle :)
    i heard that jamie oliver has introduced some good food pkgs in the schools out there! kids need to be disciplined in good food habits.

  29. I am a great lover of Rasams, I will try this and what can I say about your photographs, they are outstanding.

  30. I want mine with rice, thank you :) I know that my mom would prefer hers with a roti :)

    About the obesity problem - you are so right Sia it is very problematic here in the Caribbean too and especially in Barbados. No one is cooking home anymore. All they're eating everyday is fried chicken and french fries and macaroni and cheese pie and all the other fatty foods. The diet is almost void of vegetables. Of course it does not help that the cheapest food is the junk food and vegetables carry a premium price.

    Growing up we hardly went out to restaurants, mom always cooked home. During the week, it was always vegetables with fish or shrimp. It was only on weekends that she cooked chicken and other meats. On Wednesdays and Fridays, she would cook vegetarian food.

    Since moving to Barbados, I have had to adjust the way I eat because the abundance of fresh produce that is readily available in Guyana was not available. It is only since the last 3 years with the Guyanese population in Barbados growing because of emmigration that I have been able to get a lot of the foods from back home. The farming output here is now heavily influenced by the Guyanese migrants and I am very thankful for that.

  31. sia, is this like a lime rasam. very simple and healthy. there are days when i crave for such simple food.

  32. @sunita,
    thanks dear:)

    LOL...hope u enjoyed it too:)

    we both seems to have many things in common. i had this post drafted since one week and i was again surprised to see ur recent post on eating healthy;)

  33. @trupti,
    20% of UK's kids are obese and it is increasing every year. it is very shocking indeed.
    thank u for ur wishes dear:) i am feeling much better now. i have dropped u a mail. hugs to u:)

    moong dal with dill? mmmm... do u have its recipe? do post ur version sometime:)

    i do agree with u girl. i remember the days when all we had was one channel, doordarshan:) now a days there are so many channels and all u do is become a couch potato and surf. good exercise for ur finger though;)

  34. @vani,
    glad to see u here. hope u n little M is doing fine:) he he...although bhindi fry in yougurt was accidental, it tasted really good. hope u do try it someday:)

    looks like blogger liked ur mesg and felt like keeping it to itself;)
    yeah, there was some campaign from jamie oliver abt eating healthy, especially for school kids. i was shocked to see what some schools here serve for meal. fatty burger and oily chips with fuzzy drinks!!! now a day govt has placed some strict rules on schools as what should be served.

    awww... thank u so much for ur kind words sweetie:)

  35. @cynthia,
    go ahead and help ur self girl:)
    my goodness!!! that is really sad thing which is happening all around the world. people are becoming lazy to the core and prefer eating out rather than cooking healthy food at home. many of my colleagues dont cook regularly at home and eat take away foods which is nothing but too much of oily nad fatty food. it hardly takes any time to prepare some salad or cook something simple.
    i am really glad to know that u r able to get lot of the foods from back home. cynth, i guess u should write and publish a article on this subject in ur weekly coloumn:)

    i totally agree with u dear:) nothing can beat the taste and comfort of simple food:)

  36. Hi Sia,

    Rasam looks delicious. I love rasam. I like adding lil bit of pepper powder to my tomato rasam. Can I add pepper powder in this rasam too?

    I tried your babycorn manchurian few weeks back. It was very delicious. I should say restaurant kind of taste. Thanks a lot for the recipe. Me and my hubby gobbled it up within minutes.


  37. oh waw, I have also made nimbu saaru for RCI. except for green chillies and ginger I think all the other ingredients are the same. its a great comfort food right?

  38. My MIL is really good at making lemon rasam she roast's dal first and then cooks. It really enhances the flavor.
    Yum yum Yummy. Love the way u presented with papad. My fav combo.

  39. lemon rasam looks so tempting. Nice pics. I must try this:)

  40. Sia,
    very very nice recipe. perfect for any season. thanks for sharing this info about chaaru:-)nice to know the history abt chaari, poli..ect

  41. Sups,
    Fridge nalli 4 nimbe hannide enu madodu antha idde, evaga holeethu nim recipe nodi :)
    Will let u know how it turns out.

  42. Thanks for the mail, Sia, my dear, my Yahoo accounts are not working for me right now. :(


  43. Nice write up sup, even in India these days kids are eating a lot of junk food...
    About the food, I love the pictures, but if it tastes anything like regular rasam I'll have to pass... but with lime it sounds interesting :)

  44. Hi Sia, Nimbe Saaru is the best. Nimma adugeya chitragale chenna. :)

  45. good rasam recipe....never used to add daal in my rasams....

  46. @anuradha,
    go ahead and add pepper if u like. cooking should have no restriction and i usually modify recipes for my liking. so adding pepper to it won't hurt anyone;)
    i am really glad to know that u and ur hubby liked the manchurian:) i was in my teens when i first made manchurian and i have adapted that recipe for my family's liking:) thank u so much for letting me know anu:)

    he he he...great minds;) i usually add ginger to most of the rasams so that it balances for the dal we add and its good for digestion:)
    rasam indeed is a comfort food:)

    roasting the dal before cooking? thank u for the tip dear. i will surely try that way and let u know:)

  47. @jasu,
    thanks dear:) do let me know if u try this sometime:) by the way i again made ur baingan bharta and enjoyed:)

    OMG! u r back:) u have resumed ur blog!!! :) hw r u sweetie?

    wow...nice to see u here:) how wass ur india trip? i will check if u have posted any new post in ur blog:) will be there shortly;)

  48. @trupti,
    thanks to u sweetie:) hope ur yahoo a/c works fine now:)

    LOL...oh our lovely rasam-hater;) but it tastes better than rasam as it dont require any rasam powder. it tastes like dal and if u like dal then u will like this too:)
    i am still thinking why u called me yum-yum;) LOL...

    tumba dhanyavadagalu:) yup, nimbu saaru is best:)

    a warm welcome to spice corner:) i usually add dal is most of the rasams except pepper and tamarind ones.

  49. Supriya,
    Lemon rasam is so comforting alda....laykalli jeerige vogarne kottikki soup na hange urpidare aathu...We love it here but yeah tomato hakuttille anu. Usharilleya ninage? Entha aathu? Hope you get better sweetie.

  50. Hay this is looking delicious. Mouth watering recipe. Thank u for adding me in ur blogroll.

  51. Yummy dish. We too prepare it with rasam powder and less toordal.

  52. my dear friend....would you mind dropping me an email...its about the FAHC...dbhattuk@hotmail.com...i need to pick your brains...cheers

  53. @seema,
    LOL...anu tumba dina aada mele urupuddu word keliddu;) yup...enagu haange kudivale, i mean urupule ishta:)
    last week churu jwara ittu. iga usharidde:) hugs to u sweetie:) will cath u online one of these days:)

    u bet:) and its my pleasure dear:)

    thanks dear:)

    @dilip bhai,
    i have mailed u bhai:)

  54. This is almost like the regular Masoor Dal we make. With Nimbu that's the only thing I want at the end of a tiring day

  55. Sia I love the way you give a little info in all your posts,I enjoy reading them.Atleast in most of us bloggers home we still relish simple home made food.I have a doubt,in making rava roti do we have to first toast the rava?

  56. @saneepa,
    simple and delicious food is what we all need at the end of the tiring day:) i agree with u san.

    i am glad to know u like little info. even i like to read them and learn something new everyday:)
    u need not roast rava for rava rotti. just mix everything and make thick batter and cook as thick dosa or u can make dough and pat them to make roties. hope u do try them sometime coz they r really delicious and very simple to make:)

  57. sia, we made it and loved it. please thank your mom from us.

  58. @bee,
    i am glad to know u liked it bee. i will surely pass ur mesg to amma:)

  59. Supriya, nimbu saaru is making me so hungry -- I wish I had some lemons to make it right now! The beautiful soft yellow rice and crispy crunchy papads... I'm drooling here. It all looks far better than any restaurant food I've ever seen :)

  60. @linda,
    thats such a sweet thing to say. i appreciate all ur kind words linda. it was bit challenging to make one of the very simple food to look good and i am glad to know i did succeed here:) try it someday when u want very simple yet tasty and comforting food. i am sure u will like it as much as i do:)

  61. Supriya,
    My mother makes lime rasam with toor dal water .. Rasam with appalam(pappad) and curd rice with pickle are best comfort foods.
    I agree with u on the point of obesity.. When I first came to US I was shocked to find cheese and fried items in almost every dish..India too has changed a lot these days.. people are eating pizzas and lots of fried food almost daily..

  62. @prema,
    i know which rasam u r talking abt. it uses just the dal water and some spices and i absolutely love it. will post the recipe some time:)
    i know its shocking to see people turning towards fast foods and junk foods. blame it on fast busy life they r leading. what with so many IT companies and overtime. i have many friends back in india who hardly cook or eat homemade food anymore. its really sad case!

  63. Hey once I had lot of lemon grass did'nt know how to use it apart from fried rice ,noodles .I got an idea ,I just took 2 stalks of lemon grass added little water and ground it and added it in lemon rasam.It was so refreshing and yummy.Lemon grass sure gave a extra flavour to the rasam and it was a super-hit in our household.

  64. Seems to be Good,I will try and come back.Thanks


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