One fried egg, two bowls of rice & three ladles of tomato broth

A+photo+of+the+author%E2%80%99s+comfort+food%2C+her+mother%E2%80%99s+one-pot+meal%3A+one+fried+egg%2C+two+bowls+of+rice+and+three+ladles+of+rasam+

Photo by Shamita Gurusu

A photo of the author’s comfort food, her mother’s one-pot meal: one fried egg, two bowls of rice and three ladles of rasam

Shamita Gurusu

A pink thermos. My pink thermos. Oh, what would it have in it today? Pizza bagels, maybe pesto pasta or even some zesty fried rice! I hurriedly unscrew the lid, and, as the thermos pops open, out comes the familiar scent of my mother’s one-pot meal: rasam rice with a fried egg. I let out a disappointed sigh before sticking the spoon into the thermos and silencing my stomach once and for all. 

Growing up, my mother’s rasam rice was the most-eaten meal in my household. My mother has always had a 7-to-5 job, meaning it was easiest for her to prepare our family’s meals on the weekends. More often than not, she chose to make a basin of rasam, a spicy South Indian tomato broth, large enough to suffice all four family members for the weekdays.

My mother takes around 30 minutes to make the rasam. She starts by sautéing six chopped tomatoes on medium high heat until they are soft and their skins begin to peel off. Next, she mixes in a tablespoon of dry tamarind, a tablespoon of turmeric, 3 stems of coriander and a tablespoon of fenugreek powder until everything is evenly incorporated. She sautées the mixture for another five minutes and then adds in 10 cups of water. At this point, all the ingredients are added in, and the pot is left to boil on medium high heat for twenty minutes until the broth is uniformly red and rich in flavor. Finally, she adds in fried red chillies, curry leaves, and mustard seeds. 

Rasam recipes vary throughout South Indian regions — some regions of the state of Tamilnadu add jaggery for a sweet and spicy taste, while others add in homemade masalas. My mother’s recipe originates from the Rayalaseema region in the state of Telangana. It is imperative for me that the rasam I’m eating be similar to my mother’s and representative of the Rayalaseema region, with a certain balance between its spicy and sour elements that I have grown to love.

I admit I didn’t really like this dish as a child. I’d go so far as to say that it was my least favorite dish because of the countless times I ate it, leading this dish to seem quite mundane. Now, however, I love this dish, and it serves as the perfect pick-me-up. While eating my rasam, rice and fried egg, I’m able to transport back to my childhood days filled with the excitement of playground adventures, catching ladybugs in grass fields and playing wall-ball as soon as my friends and I had finished our lunches.  Every bite reminds me of my mother’s tired yet warm smile as she hands me my pink thermos, her tight hugs before sending me off to school and her unconditional love as she brought me a hot bowl of rasam whenever I felt sick. 

It has now become an unspoken tradition for my mother to make one fried egg, two bowls of rice and three ladles of rasam whenever I come home after being away from my family for a while. This simple dish represents my mother’s love in its entirety and is the reason I will never grow tired of it again.