Rasam is arguably the single greatest mass-consumption item of the South Indian culinary fare. There are other pinnacles achieved routinely by some other simply glorious dishes like coconut thohail and cabbage kootu, and it would be folly to discount the extraordinary morukuzhambu or the fiery vathalkuzhambu in all their forms, but these are items that are made now and then, not everyday like the ubiquitous rasam. The only items that find themselves as constant companions to the rasam are white rice (chaadam), ghee (nei), curds (thayar) and appalams (rapidly being substituted by potato chips). Rasam beats them all hands down; indeed, it beats a lot of dishes hands down; the contest is over even before it begins; there never was any contest.
The name belies the power it can exude and the reverence it can garner, for it is a simple sounding name, with just a couple of syllables to gain it worldwide recognition. It is in this simplicity that the rasam revels and invigorates, for the rasam is a simple dish, easy to prepare and easy on the eyes. But it assuages the nose, for it carries with it a smell that can capture any person and make him/her prey. It may look like weak red water, but its intricacies are so finely meshed with each other that every single taste bud is tickled and satiated. A well-made rasam can brighten any day and any mood.
Rasam chaadam is the most important course in the meal that I partake of. Everything else before that is an introduction, just building it all up for the final brilliant epitome of food. So no matter how divine the thohails, the kootus, the sambars and the kuzhambus might have been, I will appreciate them all and extol on their virtues, but the lips will still smack and I will still drool when the time for rasam chaadam arrives; for then, all is well and right with the world, the future is bright and happy, and God does exist, for a superbly made rasam is one of the few things that will make me believe in God and make me give up my appalam in one fell swoop.