Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Menasina Saaru(Hot and Sour Pepper Rasam)

Long long ago, perhaps in the early Seventies, there was a Kannada novel in my late father's collection titled 'Mundenu Raman'. I guess, the author was YNK(YN Krishnamurthy). That book had a story revolving around a small boy named Raman, his hardship in life, his dream to earn money enough to buy a book, his option to choose between the book and a blanket for his folks at home and the unexpected end. Later that story was adapted in a movie by name 'Bettada Hoovu'.

Why I mentioned about that book here is, the story had a whiff of rustic flavours, the author describing the simple meal of rice and piping hot 'Menasina Saaru' or Pepper Rasam savoured by the labour class family. That description made me drool, imagining about the hot and tangy Mensasina Saaru!

Well, years rolled and in 1979, I got job in a Bank in Chamarajanagar and I stayed in Mysore during those days. My roommate Mohan Reddy took me to a restaurant by name Indian Milk Bar on Chamaraja Double Road, where we used to have dinner after returning from Chamarajanagar by train. For Four Rupees, along with Mutton Kheema Ball Curry and rice, they served sambar, pickle, beetroot fry and also a cup of pepper rasam, or menasina Saaru.

I immediately developed a liking for it, because when I gulped small sips of that, I felt like molten lava travelling through my mouth into the stomach, burning the gastric mucosa on the way. As it reached the stomach, I felt pangs of hunger and started gobbling up heaps of rice, sambar and mutton kheema ball curry! So, there I was, tasting Menasina Saaru for the first time in my life.

When I landed Bangalore in 1980, my brother Radhakanth who was studying MBBS there suggested Hotel RR, a newly opened Andhra style restaurant in Gandhinagar. He said, the meals served on plantain leaf had a variety of unlimited curries, chutneys and side dishes which was worth trying. I went there and had my lunch. The very first thing they served apart from cold drinking water was a small cup of piping hot pepper rasam. My brother said, it is appetiser traditionally served in Andhra Restaurants, and has to be consumed before having food. Then on, I was a fan of Andhra food. My regular hangouts were mostly RR and Annapoorna in Gandhinagar. During every visit, I used to ask for extra serving of that addictive soup. Later, Meena used to make it whenever I was down with cold and fever. It acted like Pepper Kashaaya and clear my sinuses.

I have also tasted this soup in Blue Star Bar and Restaurant in Shivamogga, where they served complimentary cups of this after consuming drinks.

Menasina saaru is our challenge to the ever favourite Hot and Sour Soup in Chinese cuisine, as per my experience. South Indians are known for making spicy dishes and rasams, but this one is ultimate. Better than mixing into steamed rice like Raman in the storybook did, I prefer to sip it as it is, slowly but definitely a tall glassful!

Make this at home in cold winter or when it drizzles outside in rainy season. It keeps you warm, clears your throat and sinuses, and of course increases your appetite. The peppery, tangy garlicky taste and flavour linger on for a long time in your mouth.

Ghee - 2 Tsp
Mustard Seeds
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Curry Leaves
Red Long Chillies - 6-8 broken into pieces
Garlic - 10-12 flakes crushed
Crushed Peppercorns - 4-6 Tsp(As per taste)
Cumin Powder - 1 Tsp
Turmeric Powder(Optional) - 1/4 Tsp
Powdered Jaggery(Optional) - 1 Tsp
Tomatoes - 2 Medium chopped
Tamarind - 2 Tsp thick pulp
Cooked Daal(Lentil) Water - 2 Ltr
Coriander Leaves - A handful chopped


Heat ghee and roast mustard seeds till they crackle.
Add cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, garlic and fry.
Now add all the other ingredients, fry till the tomatoes turn mushy.
Add salt and lentil water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

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