Rasa Rice Bowl: Taste your way to balance


Balanced meals are about more than just making sure you have vegetables on your plate. In Ayurveda, we look at rasa, or taste, as a way to ensure meals are balanced to support digestion. When rasa in a meal is balanced with all six tastes, we feel satisfied and the food tastes delicious.

The concept that “like increases like and the opposite brings balance” is a key Ayurvedic principle to balance the doshas. So, a person with excess kapha will have more damp, heavy qualities that will be increased by foods with sweet, sour and salty rasa. More pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will bring balance because of their hot, dry qualities. We are composed of all doshas, just in different amounts. A common misconception about Ayurveda is that we must completely eliminate the tastes that increase our primary dosha(s). Going to extremes like this will cause imbalance and actually goes against Ayurveda, where the goal is to move toward balance.

Our meal this month is a great example of balanced recipes according to rasa. Try it out and see if you can discern the tastes of each of the foods. Keep in mind that if you are used to heavily flavored foods, like onions, garlic, hot sauce, or refined sugar that numb the taste buds, it can take time to adjust to the more subtle flavors. Over time, you’ll taste the sweetness of squash and the bitterness of kale, all the time knowing that you’re supporting your agni and improving your overall health.

Ayurveda recognizes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each of these tastes relate to the elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) that govern the three doshas. When present in a meal, each rasa can support or hinder digestion depending on quantity used and your particular state of imbalance, or vikruti.

Rasa rice bowl

Serves 4
Preparation time: 45 minutes to 2 hours (depending on cookware)
Augmenting and extractive

You’ll need:

1 cup short grain brown rice (sweet)

1/2 tbsp. ghee (sweet)

1 tsp. salt (salty)

1½ cups water

3/4 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained (sweet and astringent)

1/4 tsp. asafoetida, or hing (pungent)

1 tsp. cumin (pungent)

1/2 tsp. salt (salty)

1-2 pieces kombu, cut into small pieces (salty)

1 tbsp. ghee (sweet)

3 cups winter squash, such as pumpkin, kabocha or butternut, cut into ½ inch pieces (sweet)

1 tsp. cinnamon (sweet and pungent)

2 tsp. coriander seeds or powder (pungent and sweet)

1 Tbsp. sunflower oil (sweet)

¼ tsp. salt (salty)

1 bunch kale, chopped (bitter)

½ tsp. chopped ginger (sweet and pungent)

1 tsp. fenugreek (bitter)

1/2 tbsp. sunflower oil (sweet)

¼ tsp. salt (salty)

Squeeze of lemon or lime (sour)

Fresh cilantro (bitter)

Here’s How:

Soak black-eyed peas overnight and drain.

Use a stainless rice cooker or pot with a tight lid. Add rice, ghee, salt and water. Follow rice cooker instructions or cover pot and simmer on low heat for 40-50 minutes. 

Place ghee, asafoetida and cumin in pressure cooker and simmer gently until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add black-eyed peas, salt, kombu and water to cover the beans by 1/2 inch. Bring to pressure at medium heat. Turn heat down as low as possible without losing pressure. Cook 22 minutes. If using a pot, simmer with lid on for 1-2 hours until soft. 

Heat sunflower oil on medium-low heat in saucepan and add spices. Simmer until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add squash and stir to coat with spices and oil. Add water to ¼ the level of the vegetables and simmer until squash is bright in color and soft (5-10 minutes).

Heat sunflower oil on medium-low heat in saucepan and add salt, ginger and fenugreek. Simmer until fragrant. Add kale and water to ¼ the level of the vegetables. Reduce heat and simmer gently until bright in color. Add the lemon or lime at the end. 

Serve topped with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

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