EEYA Sombu : An Endangered culinary equipment?

Prof. Ashish Parthasarathy
Assistant Professor

Before the advent of Steel utensils across south India, eeya sombu was very commonly used utensil across the Carnatic region. Eeya Sombu is a very delicate and ductile vessel made using the metal TIN. This vessel was a priced possession of a majority of the Tamil Brahmin communities across South India. With the Low melting point of tin it makes it very difficult to cook using the particular vessel. Cooking using this particular vessel was a skill. One of the greatest south Indian Cook Late. Krishnagiri Ranganayaki once said that during her best years of cooking which was more than 75 years ago, the majority of households in her community used this vessel to make Rasam. “The tastiest rasam was made using eeya sombu” she whispered with nostalgia when she used spoke about her days of cooking using firewood and charcoal. It was a tradition in the Tamil Brahmin community to gift an eeya sombu by the bride’s parents to the newly married couple Tin having a very low melting point used to melt with the exposure of excess heat. Cooking using the vessel was considered a skill even now. The ingredients were added to the vessel first and then they were placed on the cooking range, directly placing the vessel on the fire without the ingredients would expose the vessel to excess heat and the base of the vessel would melt down. The overindulgence of heat in a vessel full of rasam would also cause the base of the vessel to melt down and the rasam leaking from the vessel and spilling all over the cooking range. Manufacturing the vessel is not easy as each vessel is handcrafted. Producing a single vessel consumed an average of 5-7 man hours. A person who moulds the vessel is considered no less than a skilled craftsman. With the less use of the traditional vessel with the busy urbanic lifestyle the production of eeya sombu has reduced over several years. Is this tradition endangered? Yes it is. Traditions are not meant to be broken; if the tradition is lost then there would be disconnection from the practices of the forefathers. Reinstating the eeya sombu is very necessary as using the vessel for cooking was an emotion. Below is a traditional recipe to cook pepper rasam which is ideal to drink it as a soup or as an accompaniment with rice for this rainy season. RECIPE: Tomato – 1 Green Chilly – 1 Tamarind extract – 150 Ml Water – 150 Ml Coriander leaf – 2 Teaspoons Peppercorn – 1 teaspoon Turmeric – Half teaspoon Tempering: Sunflower oil – 2 tsp Mustard – 5 Grams Cumin - 5 Grams Dry Red chili – 1 Asafoetida – 1 Pinch Curry leaf – 5 to 6 leaves. Procedure: 1. Add all the ingredients. 2. Firstly, in a large kadai add in 1 tomato, 1 green chilly, few curry leaves and ½ tsp turmeric. 3. Also add 1 cup tamarind extract and salt to taste. 4. Cover and boil for 8 minutes or till tomatoes gets cooked completely. 5. furthermore add 2 cups of water adjusting the desired consistency, 6. Boil for 2 minutes and add in 1 tsp crushed pepper. 7. Stir well and do not boil further as pepper will loose flavors. 8. Now prepare the tempering by heating oil. 9. Add in 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp Jeera, pinch of asafoetida, 1 dried red chilly and few curry leaves. 10. Allow the tempering to splutter. 11. Further pour the tempering over rasam along with coriander leaves. 12. Finally, serve pepper rasam along with hot steamed rice or drink as a soup