Eeya Sombu Rasam

One of the famous dishes in Tamil Brahmin’s home of yesteryears was the ‘Eeya Sombu Rasam’. Sombu means vessel and Eeyam is a metal coating. So it is essentially a cooking vessel with a special metal coating.

I say yesteryears because the practice of making rasam in an Eeya Sombu is no longer prevalent in most households, thanks to the biased approach of questioning anything ancient that has no proper explanation available! Sad indeed! Because this is one dish that is so tasty that it is to be devoured to be believed.

Perhaps this is one of the few dishes where the vessel used in cooking lends its name to the dish. There is nothing special about the making of this rasam – ingredient or method wise. In fact any type of rasam can be made in an Eeya Sombu. It is the metal components of the vessel itself that enhances the taste and attributes a unique flavor to this dish.

‘Eeyam Poosardhu’ in tamil or ‘ Application of Eeyam – a metal Coating’ when literally translated was a well known process in olden days when copper vessels used to be coated with Eeyam. This was done by street vendors who made a living out of this, who used to call out loudly as they passed from one street to another. With the advent of stainless steel vessels and modern cooking applications this tribe slowly disappeared. Every household used to be in possession of at least a couple of Eeya Sombu which was passed down to the next generation almost like a heirloom. And every brahmin household would have a story or two about a Sombu that disappeared after it was left forgotten on the stove and landed up as a molten coating on the burner. Yes….this vessel was notorious for its low melting point and hence was at the receiving end of absent minded homemakers.

Now what exactly is an Eeya Sombu about which so much is spoken about? And what makes the rasam so divine and delicious? This is a raging controversy that has still not been put to rest. The alarm raised by one set of believers that Eeya Sombu was essentially made out of Lead and hence would lead to Led Poisoning raised all hell and made many to discontinue cooking in it. That however is not true.
Eeya Sombu is actually made of an alloy of tin and other metals and NOT Lead as is wont to be believed by a few. Lead is referred to as Kaareeyam and Tin as Velleeyam. Eeya Sombu is made of the latter. This is amply evident by the fact that our older generations had consumed this rasam for several years and remained healthy for long. Had it been a case of Led Poisoning this certainly would not have been possible.So if anything it is only said to provide health benefits, when consumed in the right quantity, that help the neuro responses of the human brain.

Of course one has to guard against spurious manufacturers and buy it from authentic places. Because an Eeya Sombu that weighs approximately 500gms costs close to Rs.1300/- . Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu is said to be famous for these Sombus. For those who have had Eeya Sombu Rasam any other would never be palatable. Even in weddings caterers are known to drop a small Eeya Sombu into the rasam [ since it is not practically possible to get such a huge Sombu ] after it is prepared to lend that extra flavor. If some of you are still in doubt about using a sombu, you can prepare the rasam and then transfer it on to an Eeya Sombu and then serve.

While using Eeya Sombu one has to ensure that there is enough liquid in the vessel.
Always cook in low flame.
Never move too far away from the kitchen when the rasam is being made. For if you do, you may neither find the rasam nor the sombu.


Chakka Varatti or Jack Fruit Jam

Jack fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and potassium and has good health benefits. Each piece of the fruit or ‘cholai’ as it is referred to is of a beautiful yellow color and can be eaten plain or soaked in honey.The fruit gives out a strong aroma which is not liked by a few. On the contrary the very mention of the fruit and the smell can be so intoxicating, as to tempt you to wards non-stop consumption of the fruit. This jam or Chakka Varatti that is made out of ripened jack fruit forms the core ingredient in making delicious jack fruit based dishes like Elai Adai and Chakka Pradaman [ Payasam]. Refer earlier posts for these recipes.

Ripe Jackfruit Cholais [deseeded & cleaned] – 4 cups
Powdered Jaggery – 2 cups
Ghee – 1 cup
Water – as required

Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Dried ginger powder a pinch


Pressure cook the jackfruit with just enough water till they are tender and soft. 3 – 4 whistles should do.

Cool and mash well. Grind to a smooth paste in a blender.

Melt jaggery with just enough water and strain.

Take a heavy bottomed kadai and pour the melted jaggery into it. Let it come to a boil.

Reduce heat completely and slowly add the jack fruit paste, stirring all the time.

Mix thoroughly and add ghee little by little. The mix should come together to form a thick paste, that is dark brown in color.

It is ready when most the moisture is absorbed and it gets a jam like consistency.

Remove and cool. Store in clean dry, air tight containers and refrigerate. Use when required but ensure that you use a dry spoon at all times.


Continuous stirring is required during the making of the jam. The mix is likely to splutter out of the container. Hence ensure your hands are protected from getting bunrt by the hot paste.

The jam makes an excellent side dish for Rotis and Bread varieties.

Add dry ginger powder and cardamom only if required. Some prefer to retain the original flavor.

Elai Adai

Elai Adai is a delicious sweet dish exclusive to Kerala that is made out of Jackfruit Jam, Coconut, Rice Flour and Jaggery. The preparation is unique in that it is a two – layer steamed dish that has the banana leaf as the base. A bit elaborate to make, it is worth every bit of the effort and once made gets devoured in no time.

The most important ingredient is the jackfruit jam. Since jack fruit is not available through out the year the jam can be made and preserved during the season time so that it can be used any time of the year. However many shops now sell ready made jam which can be bought and used. The taste of the dish is further enhanced by the aroma of the banana leaf on which is it placed and steamed.

In olden days [ and even now in some homes in Kerala] the preparation of the jam by itself is a huge ritual. A whole jack fruit is sometimes used in the making of the jam in hugely populated households. The jam is so tasty it can eaten plain too. In fact the jam is used in the preparation of another delicacy ‘ Chakka Payasam ‘ or Chakka Pradaman’ [ refer earlier posts]. Will comne up with a separate post on preparing the jam.


Jack fruit jam – 1 cup
Grated jaggery – 3/4 cup
Grated Coconut – 2 cups
Raw rice – 3/4 cup
Boiled Rice – 1 cup
Gingely Oil – 1 tlbsp
Salt – Pinch

Base :
Banana Leaves – One per piece of adai. Cut them into squares depending on the size of your steamer.


For the filling:
Melt jaggery with little water and strain.
In a heavy bottomed pan pour melted jaggery and add the jack fruit jam.
Stir well so that the jam mixes well to a paste like consistency without any lumps.
Added grated coconut and mix well till it again reaches a jam – like consistency and all the moisture is gone.

For the paste:
Soak rice up to 8 hours and grind to a smooth paste.
Add salt and gingely oil and mix well.
The paste should be very thick – of spreading consistency.

Raw banana leaves are bound to tear and have to be seasoned in order to be used here. Hold each piece of leave over the flame in the stove and flip each side over for a minute. Alternatively you can steam the leaves too for a few minutes.

When all the above three components are ready:

Take a banana leaf and spread a thin layer pf rice flour over it. Cover only 3/4 th of the leaf.
Now spread the jam over the rice flour mix again ensuring that you stop just before the edges [ of the rice flour paste in this case]
Fold the leaf into half quickly and fold the edges to seal them.
Place in a steamer and steam on medium flame for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the number of pieces placed in the steamer.
You will know it is done once the adai comes off the leaf.
The adai can be had straight from the leaf or gently removed and placed on a plate.

The adai can be made in a round or square shape as per your comfort levels.
The banana leaf has to be carefully handled once the filling is done while transferring it to the steamer.
Last heard that even stores in the US stock frozen banana leaves that can be used for Elai Adai.