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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pippali Rasam

I got introduced to Long Pepper (Piper longum) as Thippali/Pippali (alternately, Thippili/Pippili) when I was in my teens. My mom's kitchen is usually well-stocked with peppers of all forms, and now, so is mine.

Long Pepper was not a staple in my mom's kitchen, though. It only made an appearance when my mom was preparing special post-partum diets for my aunts and other relatives. I was terribly curious, naturally, and tasted some of my aunt's post partum diet back in my teens. It consisted of pipplai rasam, vegetable+lentil koottu, some roasted garlic and some sautéed sprouted fenugreek (as a galactagogue). I simply loved the aroma and the distinctive taste of pippali in the rasam.

But of course, there ended my affair with the pippali. Pippali didn't make an appearance in my life again until two years ago, when my mom put me on my very own post-partum diet. And boy did I love it! So much so that even now I make pipplai rasam on and off. And while on the subject, sprouted fenugreek is quite an incredible thing for a lactating mother - it not only stimulates lactation, but, takes care of any nagging digestive issues as well.

To use pippali, I simply crush it in a mortar and pestle, just like I would any black or green whole pepper. Sprinkle it on fresh goat cheese, or over scrambled eggs, or even as part of rub for meats. If used in large quantities it tends to numb the tongue with its intensity. It is not much hotter than black pepper, but, it has a special aroma and pleasant sweet pungency in addition to the medium heat that has to be experienced...

And, Pippali, aka Long Pepper is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Küchenlatein.

Here is a simple recipe to make pippali rasam. This rasam can be had as an appetizing soup, or served with rice and poduthuval as a meal.

1 ripe medium tomato, finely chopped
4-6 pieces of pippali (start with lesser if preferred)
1-2 clove of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup cooked and mushed toor dal
water as needed
salt to taste

Tempering: 1 tsp home-made ghee or canola oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 4-6 curry leaves (optional)


in a mortar and pestle, crush the pippali, cumin seeds and garlic; keep handy

tempering: heat oil in a pan, when shimmering add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the cumin seeds and curry leaves; throw in the crushed pippali+cumin+garlic mixture, a pinch of salt, and sauté till spices bloom a little

add about 5-6 cups of water, chopped tomato, tamarind concentrate (add half the quantity first, stir well, then add more to taste), brown sugar and let it simmer on medium low till tomato is cooked and flavors meld

adjust salt to taste, add the cooked and mushed lentils, chopped cilantro (reserve some for garnish, if preferred), stir well and let it simmer till lentils are well-incorporated

Serve it piping hot as a soup or with South Indian style meal of rice and vegetables.

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  • At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Ulrike said…

    I wish I knew that years ago. I had only lactation tea with fennel, aniseed and caraway. For years I couldn't smell these spices ;-), but my sons are well grown.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe for WHB

  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Simona said…

    Very interesting recipe and nice photos.

  • At 6:57 AM, Blogger Kalyn said…

    What a fascinating post. I don't think I've seen this type of pepper. Love your photo. I've had rasam only in Indian restaurants (not sure what type, but it had tomatoes), but I liked it very much.

  • At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Linda said…

    Hi Sheela, returning your visit to my blog :) The rasam sounds really interesting and looks great -- can one find long pepper in Indian markets? It is a beautiful-looking spice.

    BTW it's a nice pic of you and the kitty in your profile -- I have two cats -- love 'em to bits :)

  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger Sheela said…

    ulrike, thanks for hosting and for the wonderful round-up.

    simona, welcome and thanks.

    kalyn, thanks for stoping by... rasam is such a comfort food i hope you get to make it at home.

    linda, the sweet kitty in the profile photo is my mum-in-law's favorite, my husband grew up with the kitty, she is old... we have two boisterous but sweet babies at home ourseleves, they are brothers and litter-mates, thick as thieves!

  • At 6:41 PM, Blogger Priti said…

    H Shella,

    Wonderful recipes. Where are these peppers sold?

  • At 7:50 PM, Blogger Sarah said…

    I can't tell you how happy I am to have found this, almost four years after you posted. I have been trying to find something to do with the long pepper I have, besides dust it on goat cheese or blend it into butter, and most of my searching only turned up odd recipes that used things I don't usually keep in my kitchen. But your recipe includes things I *do* have in my kitchen. Also, I love anything with lentils in it. I can't wait to make this!


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