Mulligatawny Soup


Makes 6 servings (serving a crowd?)

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled, chopped (about 1 oz)
½ - 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bayleaf, broken into fragments
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 8 oz)
¾ lbs boneless, skinless chicken meat (see suggestion below)
6 oz coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock (or three 10½ oz cans)
6 Tablespoons lentils
6 Tablespoons uncooked rice
1 teaspoon tamarind nector
fresh coriander leaves or garam marsala for garnish

Special equipment

Food processor
4-quart stewpot


Whirr the first 7 ingredients in one tablespoon of the oil into a thick paste. Fry the onion in the remaining oil until golden, and then stir in the spice paste and fry another 3 minutes

Add the chicken meat and stir. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and stir in the lentils and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the burner and purée in the food processor until smooth, in batches if necessary. Some prefer their soup smooth and creamy; we prefer ours a little coarser, so that you can distinguish the ingredients. Put the soup back into the pot, add the tamarind nectar, and reheat. Garnish and serve. Makes 7 cups.


Mulligatawny is a very multi-ethnic dish. The name is Tamil (milagu ‘pepper’ + tunni ‘cold water’), a vegetarian pepper soup favoured by the brahmins of the south. It was adapted by others who added salt fish, tamarind to counterbalance the salt, more spices, maybe some chicken or lamb. By the time the British arrived on the scene, the recipe was re-adjusted for Anglo-Indian tastes. Popular in England since the late 1700s, there is no standard recipe: some still make a vegetarian version with spices and toasted almonds; some add tomatoes, carrots, squash, or celery; and others use lamb instead of chicken. Mrs Beeton suggests rabbit!

The recipe is our personal modification of Brennan’s approximation of the mulligatawny served at the West End Hotel in Bangalore.


For our personal use, we use a full teaspoon of cayenne, but when serving guests, we try to use somewhat less Nor need you restrict yourself to boneless breastmeat. Bones will add flavour, making a heartier soup; try skinned thighs or breasts. Just be sure to remove the bones before puréeing

Can’t find tamarind nectar at your local grocer? What, no Latino food section?! No Asian food section either? Try a little apricot nectar, or even apple juice.

We recently tested a vegan version of the dish, substituting the same amount of canned pumpkin for the chicken and adding about ¾ cup of toasted slivered almonds. It came out much thicker than our regular mulligatawny so we added a fourth can of vegetable broth, and that made it go a little further. We also recommend that you don’t purée too finely; the almonds should still be identifiable. Next time, we’ll soak some sultanas in some of the hot broth while we purée the rest of the mixture. The contrast of the sweet sultanas might offer a surprise touch.