The Soup of India

Mulligatawny soup

Soups originally evolved from peasant cookery and virtually every country has a national soup. National soups differ from country to country because of their ingredients and the influence of local food products. All have their individual taste, aromas and historical backgrounds which reflect the gastronomic culture from which they originated.

The national soup of India is the Mulligatawny. Mulligatawny Soup was actually the anglicised version of the Tamil “Melligu -Thanir”. (“Melligu” means pepper and “Thanir” meaning water or rasam). As the name suggests it was originally just pepper in a watery soup.

The original Mulligatawny Soup can be traced back to the early days of the East India Company in Madras to around the 18th century. Supposedly, it was simply an invention to satisfy the British officers who demanded a soup course for dinner from a cuisine that had never produced one till then. The Tamil servants in those days concocted a stew like dish that contained pepper and water on the lines of their local Rasam. It was an interesting mix of East meets West, and was the nearest thing to soup in the cuisine of Colonial India.

Recipes for mulligatawny were quickly brought back to England by the British and its popularity spread throughout the country. It has made a lasting impression on British cuisine right down to the present day, though it has undergone many changes. It is now available even in cans in some stores in the UK. It is still an excellent “Comfort” dish on a cold rainy day and will surely lift the spirits when one is down in the dumps.

Mulligatawny Soup –


  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups stock
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp curry powder or bullion/stock cube
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup raw apple, chopped fine


  1. Sauté the celery, carrots, onion, and pepper in the butter at a low heat until the onion is translucent.
  2. Stir in the curry powder to blend and cook for a minute.
  3. Pour in the stock, add the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add apple and then puree in a blender. Strain the solids. Return to the pot, add salt and pepper.
  4. When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer and add the rice.

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