Of rainy days and warmth – South Indian Hygge

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Hygge is a term used for warmth, contentment, happiness, comfort; that feeling you get on a cold day, eating fluffy Mangalore bondas, mirchi bajjis, vada pavs, dhabelis or even spicy masala and cheese maggi, and drinking masala chai, listening to some chill music and reading something good.

Rasam is a magical brewed boiled concocted creation of dal/papu, tamarind pulp, tomatoes, lemon and rasam powder mixed in water.

indian-parents-forum
Image Courtesy: indianparentsforum.com

The consistency of well-made lemon rasam is perfect to resurrect me from the drowsy phlegm wracked fever ghoul I become during gloomy weather. Tangy spicy rasam tastes great with many food items like bland idly cakes, sweet yellow holige/obattu and rice. My love for rasam obviously knows no bounds.

I like rasam best from my mother’s MS – 15 recipe. MS – 15 is my mother’s extended family, so called because of the apartment they inhabit since fifty years or so. Every few months a day is set aside for the preparation of this powder itself, especially in summer – when it is made in bulk. Dried red chillis, Kashmiri dried red chillis, black peppercorn, dhania (coriander) seeds, jeera(cumin) seeds, chana (Split Bengal gram) dal, toor (split pigeon peas) dal, curry leaves and turmeric powder is ground to fine powder in perfect ratios until the aroma has a heady effect of sneezing your grievances away. The recipe for the heart of rasam – the powder, along with their trials and travails, even featured in the book written on them. My family is all about the traditions and culture, you see. The entire clan of fifteen brothers and sisters and their cousins families, make the same rasam powder. My mother likes to point out how much of a Guntur born child I am, because of the spice levels I insisted on, were near the unchartered territory section of her cooking.

When I had to leave my parents staying in Kuala Lumpur, to stay on my own, in Bangalore, I visited all the Raghavendra Swami muttas in south Bengaluru often. It was not quite the peace and devotion that pulled me to the temples, but the yelle utta (banana leaf lunch meal) that held me in sway. The kosambris (coconut shavings with dal and corn salad sprinkled with salt and lemon-simple, yet delicious!) were my mother’s favourite part of the meal, and the delectable curries with papad were my brother’s favourite finger foods. If we were in Sri Ragiguda Anjaneya Temple, the puliogere(tangy rice mixture) and gugiri(fried channa) were the sure hits.

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Nevertheless, my father and I looked forward eagerly to the half clad devotional studies pupils or pujaris  splashing a ladle full of rasam. I have eaten in multiple Uttara Karnataka food joints, darshinis, Andhra messes. Yet the temple fare is the closest to what  my mother’s rasam tastes like.

One year after I started staying in my landlady’s house – where I had to make my own food; which, as a novice kid in the kitchen, was horridly daunting – I  managed to procure a bottle of the powder from my yearly visits to my frail grandparents. My cooking was only edible, but the flavour of the simple potion was immediately tangible as it cast an enchanting aroma. That was on the third stab I had at it of course. The first time was a disaster. I had almost made it too thick and burnt a little of the dal. I should have learnt to make the perfect rasam from my mother while I still could have. A regret left at the altar of past, just like those Karate, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, violin, calligraphy, KUMON, abacus, theatre, Toastmaster club classes.

Image Courtesy:

Image Courtesy:

dreamstime
Image Courtesy: dreamstime

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It is the fragrance of childhood –austere, conservative, religious conversations around plates not groaning with all the weight of the food, because we sit down and eat the old way, from when tables didn’t exist. The rasam my mother prepared even tasted like the puja room, since my father poured the remaining from puja theertham (tulsi – neem infused water) into it. It is emblematic of subsiding pain after untouchable days; my periods. My precious Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince book has weathered water from showers and rasam from steel tumblers.

Rasam is my comfort food. My hygge. What’s yours?


I have a cold, and as my close associates will tell you, I am rather obsessed with my mother’s rasam now. This kind of desire for something that is not really within reach, has prompted an entire blog post, so perchance this cold and feverish writing actually works, eh?  I am going to go look for something to eat now, because these pictures and the imagery I had to conjure up for writing this post has made me very hungry indeed.

I am also trying this new thing where I suggest a playlist for you to listen to, while reading, because what reading is not enhanced by the tune of music, sí? 

What do you think? Do let me know in the comments!

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3 comments

  1. I love rasam too! I like to call it saaru and I always have it with anna. That and mosaranna make the best meal in the world! 😁
    You should definitely come home one day, Jaj, if you miss homemade rasam. I love my grandma’s recipe, although I think it is slightly different from your mother’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is a curious thing. Even though geographically and even culturally, we are from the same place, the slight variations in the preparation of the powder make all the difference.
      I call the slightly thicker one I eat with annam, saaru.
      My language is a hybridisation of Telugu and Kannada, weirdly enough.
      True, they really come together and make a complete meal.
      Thank you so much Nandini, that means a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

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