Neem Flower Rasam and a New Year
Hello All, I wish everyone a very happy tamil new year. En iniya manamarndha tamizh puthaandu nal vaazhthukkal (என் இனிய, மனமார்ந்த தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல் வாழ்த்துக்கள்). It would be no surprise(not because I am popular, but because I just wished you in a foreign language) that I am from one of the oldest societies in the world, the tamil people of South India. We follow two calendars in everything we do, one the english calendar to align ourselves with the rest of the world and two, the tamil calendar that we use for everything religious and auspicious. Today, we celebrate the birth of a new year, The Vijaya Year. Yes, we do have names for our years just like the chinese. It is on this day that we celebrate by praying that we live our lives with balance. Equal parts of the Sweet and the Sour. For this reason the meal that we prepare today consists of Sweet and Sour ( or Bitter) things to remind us that life is a balance and may our new year be filled with balance. The recipe I prepared for today is Neem Flower Rasam (soup).
The Neem tree is an integral part India and its culture. Even with its million cultural types, Neem is revered across the entire nation. Neem is well known for its medicinal value. Its twigs have been used as tooth brushes in ancient India. Its leaves have been used to treat wounds. In modern India, neem has been used in numerous ayurvedic preprations and herbal remedies. The neem flower, is what we use in this dish.
When I was young I used to visit my uncle’s house where my grandmother used to live. Their house had these beautiful giant neem trees in their yard. My grandmother would spread a cloth underneath the neem tree to collect the flowers as it fell down. She would then clean them and dry them in the sun. Those dried neem flowers would then be stir fried in ghee and mixed with plain white rice. We were supposed to eat a ball of neem flower rice to cure us of stomach pain. Such was the medicinal value. The neem flower did have a bitter taste but I used to love them a lot. Hence this rasam with neem flowers on new year to remind us of the same balance. Enjoy!
- Toor dhaal – pressure cooked 1 Cup (see instructions below)
- Tomatoes – 2
- Dried Neem Flower – 3 tbsp
- Mustard Seeds – a pinch
- Cumin Seeds – a pinch
- Asafetida – a pinch
- Tamarind Paste – 2 tbsp
- Rasam powder – 2 tbsp
- Salt – to taste
Putting it together
- In a heavy bottomed pan, add cut tomatoes, rasam powder, tamarind paste, salt, asafetida and 2 cups of water and put it to boil
- In a pressure cooker, add a cup of toor dhaal , with turmeric powder and water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles
- When the rasam boils, add all of the toor dhaal water in to it, and mash the dhaal with a fork. Add the dhaal in to the rasam and let it boil over
- In a separate pan, add some ghee and heat it. Then add the neem flowers and saute them until dark brown
- Add them to the rasam. Sputter some mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the same pan and add those to the rasam as well
- Garnish with some cilantro leaves (I did have any at hand)
- Serve with hot rice or as soup