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  • Writer's pictureSharmila Ribeiro

Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny soup

Years ago I lived in Ahmedabad and was a frequent visitor to the Cama Hotel, where I always ordered their mulligatawny soup and became quite addicted to it. More recently, I have had it at various clubs in Chennai and at the Buhari’s original Mount Road branch. These were all tasty with some being more spicy than others, but I have always yearned for the “delicate looking but with a strong hint of spice” version that I so loved at the Cama. Finally, after much trial and error, I’m happy to share this delicious and nutritious mulligatawny (an Anglo-Indian/British adaptation of the Tamil “milagu thani or pepper water/rasam). Some recipes call for cooking the stock with a handful of masoor dal, but I’ve adapted mine from Patricia Brown’s Anglo Indian Food and Customs, so I use gram flour/besan instead. You can also make a vegetarian version, using a vegetable stock to start with.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for chicken stock:

½ kg bone-in chicken pieces

2 litres water

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped in large pieces

3 stalks of celery, cut in big pieces

1 teaspoon pepper corns

½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Soup:

4 cups or 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, chopped fine

10 curry leaves

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste

1 teaspoon coriander/dhania powder

½ teaspoon cumin/jeera powder

½ teaspoon turmeric/haldi powder

½ - 1 teaspoon pepper powder

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilly powder (use less if you use a more spicy one)

1 teaspoon Madras or any readymade curry powder

3 tablespoons gram flour/besan

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup cooked long-grain rice

Lime quarters for garnish


1. Prepare the chicken stock by placing the chicken pieces in a large pot with 2 litres water, onion, carrot, celery and pepper corns. Bring to a boil and simmer till almost reduced by half. Strain the soup. Clean the chicken meat off the bone. Reserve the stock and chicken pieces, separately.

2. In a deep and wide pot, sauté the onions until golden brown. Toss in the curry leaves and bay leaf and stir. Add in 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste, sauté a bit, and then add in all the powdered spices.

3. Once the spices are slightly cooked, put in 3 tablespoons of besan/gram flour and slowly roast until you get a nice aroma. Slowly add in the 4 cups of chicken/vegetable stock a little at a time, whisking at the initial stages so that no lumps form. Add in the salt.

4. Let the soup simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Strain the soup into a large bowl or vessel and return to heat. Add in the cup of coconut milk. Toss in a half cup of shredded chicken, if you wish (optional). Bring to a slow boil and turn off. Taste for salt.

5. To serve, place a tablespoon of cooked white rice at the bottom of a soup bowl and fill with the soup. Squeeze in a wedge of lime. Serve piping hot.

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