Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Bharatanatyam Dancer Bala Devi Chandrashekar Shares Her Indian Soup Recipe

Rising up, every time Bala Devi Chandrashekar was feeling beneath the climate, her mother would make her jeera rasam, a standard Indian cumin-and-pepper soup. Chandrashekar did the identical for her two sons, and continues to swear by the dish’s therapeutic powers. (Chandrashekar’s­ jeera rasam recipe, which she discovered from her mother-in-law, leaves out the tomatoes and coriander­ seeds that her personal mom included.) “When you have nausea otherwise you really feel very feverish or you’ve got a headache or some uneasiness within the physique, instantly we make this jeera rasam,” says the Princeton, New Jersey–primarily based bharatanatyam dancer. “The elements are fairly natural in nature and really therapeutic.”

“I like all the pieces pure,” says Chandrashekar of her cooking habits. “I don’t like coloring, and I imagine lots in contemporary meals. Nothing preserved, nothing too refrigerated or overheated. I feel all of us have to be acutely aware that we don’t shock our methods.” A vegetarian, she emphasizes greens, lentils, and many fluids. “I can inform you I cook dinner fairly tasty meals,” she says, including that the chums she’s made whereas touring world wide all recognize her Indian cooking. “They actually like it,” she says. “As a result of every recipe comes with a really beautiful mixture of spices and herbs.

A Holistic Strategy

For Chandrashekar, practising classical dance and yoga seeps into each facet of her life—together with the meals she consumes. “Yoga isn’t just about carrying yoga pants and doing a little asanas, and dance isn’t just about carrying a dressing up and arising onstage, butto stay that have even offstage,” she says. When deciding what to eat, Chandrashekar retains in thoughts the Ayurvedic precept of sattva, which she interprets as purity of thoughts. “We want actions and meals that set off that compassion in us, the sensation of affection for everyone,” she says. “So while you eat calming meals, or one thing that’s very pure, you set off that sattva in you.”

Ingredient Key

asafoetida: Often called hing in Hindi, asafoetida is a gum resin extract from ferula, a celery-like herb. It’s bought in a powdered type, and small quantities of it are generally utilized in Indian cooking. Should you don’t have an Indian grocery close by, it’s out there on Amazon for beneath $6.

tamarind: A standard taste in Indian, Mexican, and Thai cooking, complete tamarind pods could be bought at most specialty or Latin markets. They’re additionally out there on-line, as is tamarind pulp, which could be watered down to be used on this recipe.

pigeon pea: Additionally referred to as toor dal, pigeon peas are a dried legume just like yellow lentils. Puerto Rican and Filipino cuisines additionally make use of pigeon peas. The Latin model Goya, which is on the market in lots of grocery shops, sells them. They’re additionally out there from a variety of on-line suppliers.

a counter top with spices and seeds  in small bowls
Elements for jeera rasam. Photograph by Chandru Balaraman, Courtesy Chandrashekar.


  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing), divided
  • 35–40 contemporary curry leaves, divided (“I take them from the plant in my backyard,” says Chandrashekar. “All of the Indian shops promote curry leaves, however throughout the summer season they develop fairly nicely in a pot.” Whereas not Chandrashekar’s desire, dried curry leaves are additionally out there for buy on-line.)
  • 2 cups tamarind water (Chandrashekar makes this herself by soaking tamarinds in sizzling water and squeezing the juice out. “However in the event you don’t have time, you may get it in Indian shops,” she provides, or you should buy compressed tamarind pulp and dilute it in sizzling water.)
  • 2 tbsps dried pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dried crimson chilies
  • salt to style


  1. Warmth the ghee over medium warmth in a stainless-steel pan with a copper backside (Chandrashekar stresses that any chrome steel pot or pan will do, it ought to simply not be nonstick). Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter.
  2. Add 1/4 tsp asafoetida and 10–15 curry leaves to the pan and sauté for a couple of seconds.
  3. Pour within the tamarind juice and let it come to a boil, then cut back the warmth to low and let the combination simmer.
  4. Within the meantime, put together the powder. Grind the toor dal, remaining curry leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, dried crimson chilies, and 1/4 tsp asafoetida in a mortar and pestle till you obtain a advantageous powder.
  5. Add the ready powder to the juice combination, and stir nicely to mix.
  6. Season with salt in response to your style, cowl the pot, and let the jeera rasam proceed simmering for about 5 minutes.
  7. Take away from warmth and serve sizzling with rice, bread, curried greens, or by itself as a soup .
a metal bowl with a dark soup inside
Chandrashekar’s jeera rasam. Photograph by Chandru Balaraman, Courtesy Chandrashekar.

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