Pan leaves rasam/ Betel leaves stew

Betel leaf or pan leaf vine belongs to the family Piperaceae. These leaves have amazing health benefits of which people are unaware of generally! Other than having it in ‘paan’ after heavy lunch or offering to god during prayers or festivals, it has no major use in cooking. According to Ayurveda, pan leaves improve digestion and they are good remedies for respiratory issues too. Chewing wilted pan leaves with added honey or consuming the juice extracted after wilting these leaves with honey helps in curing cough or cold. They are rich in vitamins, iron, calcium and fibre. Hence good for constipation too!
Have you ever tried pan leaves in cooking? If so what is your favourite dish? They go well in desserts like kulfi/ ice cream or in rasam. I am sharing the recipe of rasam in this post which I suggest eating fresh after preparation. As time passes, it releases tartness/ bitter taste and it turns too strong to eat.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 3

Tender betel leaves – 3-4 or if using matured leaves then use 1-2
Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 6-8 seeds
Dry red chilli – 2
Grated coconut – 3 tbsp
Asafotida – 1 pinch
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Tamarind extract – 1 tsp
Jaggery – 2 tsp grated
Salt – to taste
Tomatoes – 2 (optional)
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig

  • Wash & clean betel leaves. Remove stalk & chop roughly..
  • Wash tomatoes, chop roughly if using. Take chopped tomatoes in a vessel; add water to cook the tomato. On boiling add salt, tamarind water, jaggery and turmeric powder. If not using tomatoes, then boil other ingredients together in water.
  • Meanwhile heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Add coriander, cumin, fenugreek, dry red chilli and asafoetida. Fry for couple of minutes until they turn brown. Add chopped betel leaves fry until they are wilted properly.
  • Add grated fresh coconut to the above, sauté once and switch off the stove.
  • On cooling a bit, grind these fried ingredients using a mixer. Smooth or coarse paste is fine.
  • Add this paste to the vessel with boiling tomato. Adjust the consistency adding water as required. Boil the rasam for 4-5 minutes.
  • Prepare a seasoning of mustard, curry leaves in oil. Add it to the rasam.
  • Serve hot rasam as side dish to rice with some vegetables stir fries and ghee.
  • This rasam tastes good soon after preparing. Keeping long time is not suggested.
  • You can avoid betel leaves and replace it with 1 sprig of curry leaves to make regular saaru (also called as huridu haakida saaru or kattu saaru in Dakshina Kannada). Tomato is optional here too.