Betel Leaf, also called as Vethalai (in Tamil) and Tamalapaku (in Telugu) is so popular in South India. The leaf is used in a number of ways – not particularly cooking though. Betel Leaf is considered one of the auspicious items that is used during festivals and poojas (prayers) – often offered to God. Other than that, this leaf is given along with Bananas, Betel Nut and some gift to the Sumangali (married) ladies as a return gift in South India. The betel leaf is full of medicinal properties and is often taken after a heavy meal to help digest the food. There are number of fillings used along with the betel leaves to have sweet, spicy combinations – infact one can see a number of paan-walas next to every restaurant. OK back to the recipe now.
Couple of weeks back, I was down with a severe sore throat and my mom suggested me to make this flavorful spicy Vethalai Rasam/ Tamalapaku Charu or Betel Leaf Soup – which is real quick to prepare. With the addition of black peppercorns and cumin seeds along with red chillies, it does turn out a bit spicy but that’s exactly what you want when you have sore throat isnt it? The flavour and juice of betel leaves coupled with other spices – it was oh-so-heavenly to have hot bowlfuls every now and then throughout the day. Not only that it can be had as it is, it goes really well with hot rice – yumm!
To make Vethalai Rasam | Tamalapaku Charu | Betel Leaf Soup
What I used –
- Betel Leaves/Vethalai/Tamalapaku, 4-5 leaves
- Cumin Seeds, 1 tsp
- Black Peppercorns, 1 tsp
- Dried Red Chillies, 2
- Tamarind Pulp, ½ tsp
- Ghee/Clarified Butter, ½ tsp
- Mustard Seeds, ½ tsp
- Curry Leaves, a few
- Asafoetida, a generous pinch
- Salt, as required
- Water, as required
How I used –
1. Wash and pat the betel leaves dry. Have the cumin seeds, peppercorns and red chillies ready.
3. Mix some water with tamarind pulp and make it watery. In a bowl, add the prepared powder along with tamarind water. Add additional water – may be a cup and half. Add salt. Mix well.
4. On medium flame, let the mixture/charu/rasam come to a rolling boil. Check for the salt and spiciness. Add more water at this stage if the rasam/charu seems too thick.
5. In a small pan, heat ½ tsp of ghee/clarified butter and add mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Add the washed curry leaves and a generous pinch of asafoetida. Add this tempering to the boiling rasam/charu. Mix well.
6. Serve hot as it is, to be had as soup or with hot rice as a meal.
- Remove the stalks of the betel leaves before roughly chopping them.
- Adjust the spice levels as per your preference. This rasam/charu is on the spicier side.
- This doesn’t need to boil for more than 7-10 mins. Keep reheating the rasam/charu multiple times during the day and have the soup hot – to get instant relief from running nose and sore throat.
- Instead of ghee, oil can be used for the tempering.