At the Table

Rasam is the Spice of Life

By: Veronica Meewes

Deepa Shridhar unveils her new concept, Rasam & Cheese

The most inventive Indian food in Austin can’t be found at a restaurant. That’s because Deepa Shridhar is the chef behind it, and she is constantly exploring fresh, new ways to share her culture and cuisine beyond the four walls of a brick-and-mortar. Shridhar’s family immigrated to Dallas from South India when she was 4 years old, and she grew up in a very food-centric household. After studying film in college, she worked with incredible chefs, starting with David Uygur of Lucia, who first introduced her to the concept of “farm to table.” She then relocated to Austin to learn butchering from Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due, followed by fine dining cuisine from Todd Duplechan at Lenoir, before breaking out on her own. 

Deepa Shridhar headshot
Image courtesy of Nitya Jain

Shridhar plays with South Indian flavors and techniques, blending them with local Texas ingredients and borrowing culinary traditions from France to Vietnam to the Caribbean to the Deep South. The results are innovative dishes like Texas quail lacquered in a sauce of local peaches, chilis and podi chili oil (for her own take on duck l’orange); Tex-Indian biscuits topped with chili confit and buttermilk pongol gravy made from fermented rice and local black eyed peas; and South Indian boudin made with tamarind, fermented chilies, curry leaves, lime and cilantro.

She’s hosted many supper club events, chef collaborations and paired dinners under different concepts: Anjore, Tamilian Texan Kitchen, Supper Club SZN and Thali Supper Club. She’s sold naan croissants and samosa pies out of her Chaiwalla farmer’s market stand and her 33 Tigers pop-up. She ran a roti taco-focused food trailer called Puli-Ra and offered salt and spice blends through an online shop called Podi House. In 2020, Shridhar started a podcast called Sic Palette, which grew to include a Substack filled with interviews, recipes and personal essays. (Subscribe here and follow her on Instagram to stay up-to-date on her latest events.)

This May, she’s kicking off a new series she’s been working on called Rasam & Cheese, starring a tangy, spiced tamarind-based South Indian broth. Rasam was a staple of her household growing up, and so were cheeseboards loaded with chutneys, Indian pickles, tamarind honey, fresh citrus and podi oil. In this new series, Shridhar is collaborating with Alex Palomo, formerly the wholesale director at Antonelli’s Cheese, on a flavor-packed Indian cheese board event featuring five courses with pairings.

Rasam & Cheese is launching on May 18th from 4:30pm to 7:0pm at the MadeIn Studio on 1005 East St. Elmo Road, Buildinging 2. Tickets are available online.

Deepa Shridhar’s Inspiration Behind Rasam & Cheese

TLP: If you could cook for anyone at all, who would it be?

Deepa Shridhar: I would love to cook for my late grandmother; she was so precise in everything she did. She made organization an art form. I would love to see what her opinion of my version of a South Indian meal would be. I would love to also cook for Magnus Nilsson, he’s my favorite chef. 

Photo Jun AM

TLP: What is it about South Indian and Texas flavors and ingredients that go so well together?

Deepa Shridhar: South India, like Texas, isn’t monolithic, but based in a cuisine made up of several cultures. The touch points are spice, locality and a constant balancing act on acid and fat. It’s very akin to cultures that make Texas cuisine so elite. Spice and satisfaction are exactly what you get when you enjoy Viet-Cajun food in Houston or breakfast tacos in Austin. Or the many different kinds of barbecue our state contains. 

TLP: What’s your method for developing a new dish?

Deepa Shridhar: I always think about perspective first. What am I wanting to say in a dish, why is it important that I create something? If I understand the point of view of a dish it automatically has a purpose. From there I can experiment, typically it takes me three to four drafts for me to feel fully at peace with a new dish. 

TLP: Can you explain the importance of rasam in your family? 

Deepa Shridhar: Rasam is definitely a touchstone of home cooking in South India. Growing up in Texas, no matter what kind of cuisine we were having for dinner, rasam was always present. My mother coined the idea of pizza and rasam being a perfect pairing, it just works! So integrating this amazing broth into different dishes was almost second nature for me. 

TLP: How did you develop the idea for your new Rasam & Cheese series?

Deepa Shridhar: Rasam & Cheese came about because it is a true partnership and collaboration between Alex Palomo and I. Alex is a great friend of mine and coincidentally one of the most knowledgeable people on cheese that I know. I introduced him to rasam one night and we realized this was something really exciting to explore. Because there are so many versions of rasam, all encompassing umami, spice and tang, it could be an endless foil to so many cheeses. 

If you want to create your own Indian cheeseboard night at home, here’s a good place to start. Toast some naan points and make Deepa’ recipe for burrata with toasted coconut, herbs, lime and tamarind paste

Tamarind Coconut Burrata

Tamarind Coconut Burrata heading-plus-icon


Serves 4-6

    For the Curry Leaf, Thai Chile & Walnut Pesto
  • 2 full sprigs curry leaves
  • 4-6 Thai chilies
  • 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan
  • The juice of one lime
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Rasam Oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon toasted whole coriander
  • 1 tablespoon toasted whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Hing
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon toasted Urad Dal, (Black Gram)
  • 1 dried red chili
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • For the Tamarind Coconut Burrata
  • 2-3 balls of burrata
  • 1 cup Curry Leaf, Thai Chile & Walnut Pesto
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, room temperature
  • 1½ cups toasted shredded coconut
  • 1 cup Rasam Oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 limes, halved
  • Big pinch flaky sea salt
  1. In a food processor, add the curry leaves, chilies and nuts. Process until fully ground, add the cheese and lime juice, then stream in the olive oil until fully incorporated.
  2. Season with salt and set aside.

Make the Rasam Oil

  1. Grind all the spices with the Dal, chili and Hing. Dry roast in a hot pan. Slowly stream in your olive oil, mix well, and simmer together for about 10 minutes, set aside.

Make the Tamarind Coconut Burrata

  1. In the bottom of either one large serving bowl, or a couple smaller bowls, spoon the portioned pesto in the bowls, making a level mound. Place your burratas on top, letting both the burrata and pesto get closer to room temperature, for 15 minutes.
  2. Toast your coconut and cover the burrata and pesto, it should look like just a bowl of shredded coconut.
  3. On low, reheat your Rasam oil and carefully add your herbs, let them fry for about a minute, turn off your oil and herb mixture and carefully pour over the coconut.
  4. Add the tamarind paste on top, and finish the dish with a sprinkle of salt and lime.
  5. Serve with crusty bread and chips.

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