Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Veppampoo Rasam – Neem Flower Soup

Veppampoo Rasam – Neem Flower Soup

If you have had a chance to go for a walk during an afternoon in the month of May in Chennai, you will very much appreciate how great shade is. In some ways, to strike a balance nature has created some really beneficial trees. To one who has to be out in that heat, the cool breeze under a neem tree is like a boon. The tree not only provides shade but also a pleasant feeling around it. It is commonly found in most parts of South India and is believed to be holy as it represents a form of the goddess Shakti (Amman). It has been well known for its medicinal values for several millennia. Every part of the tree has medicinal values. This was so well known that the tree was called the ‘village pharmacy’. It is said to have anti-biotic, anti-viral, anti-malarial properties. I remember my brother and I used to be given a paste of tender neem leaves when we had chicken pox and that was the only ‘medicine’ given. It is said that there are some patents for use of neem as treatment for AIDS.

It is a shame that I did not really enjoy this dish when growing up. I just found the slight bitterness and unique aroma a bit overwhelming. But now, living so far from home, I have begun to appreciate the flavour and taste. I think it was with good reasons that our ancestors included bitter vegetables in our diet and I am not just able to appreciate that but also look forward to eating such dishes for a change. I keep this recipe incredibly simple and here it is

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon clarified butter (ghee) or cooking oil
1 tablespoon dried neem flowers (use more or less based on preference)
½- 3/4 teaspoon tamarind paste
½ teaspoon black pepper powder (Optional)
Salt to taste

Boil about 2 cups water. Add turmeric powder, asafoetida, tamarind and boil for 5 minutes. Add black pepper powder and required salt

In a heavy bottom vessel, add the ghee or oil and once hot, fry the neem flowers until they turn dark. Add it to the boiling liquid and boil for 5 more minutes

In the left over ghee, add some mustard seeds and once it crackles, add to the rasam.

Serve hot! This usually tastes great with root vegetables like potato or arbi/colocassia/seppankezhangu.


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