Mulligatawny soup with chicken

Mulligatawny soup is a classic soup of the British Raj. However, it is not Indian in origin as commonly thought, but initially from Sri Lanka. Mulligatawny literally means, "pepper water" from the Tamil "mulliga thani". The first known recipe for the soup is in a French cookbook from 1856, with many variations being published after that. The British served this soup, mainly to the soldiers, unlike a traditional "pepper water" or "rasam" as a digestif after dinner, it helped sooth the stomach. However, the soup caught on and became popular both in India and England.

There are as many variations of this soup as can be, with or with lentils, with meat or vegetarian, thick or runny, and with or without rice. However, they all have one thing in common, this is a delicious soup.

Most mulligatawny soups produced in restaurants (or colonial clubs in India) are remembrances of the old British Raj days gone by. However, this is a complex soup to make and getting it right is a challenge. Getting the prefect balance of spices, not too spicy, but a soup with well balanced flavors is a challenge and as you will see a complex and involved task.

This soup is a classic recipe. It is bold and pops with spices, the chicken is also deeply flavored having been cooked with the spices. It is thickened with lentils and topped with a touch of rice and a lime wedge that adds the perfect tart tones to the soup. The soup is complex and has layers of flavors that go from the initial tartness to a smooth a slow burn on the palate.

This will be one of the many variations of this soup that I will be making. The other variations will include a clear brothy version, a meat version, a seafood version, so stay tuned.

This is one of my first cookbooks I purchased, and one that I use quite a bit to make wonderful soups. Every page has been stained and every recipe has been amazing, this book taught me to love soups, not ordinary soups, but soups with flavor. The collection of recipes go beyond the ordinary and the chef opens up a world of amazing soups from around the world in this cookbook. This is an older cookbook, but still a classic and one that I recommend for anyone who wants to make excellent soups.

For more recipes for this amazing cookbook, click here.


1 cup red lentils (masoor dal), soaked overnight in 6 cups water

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 lb chicken, boned or boneless

2 cups water

1 bay leaf

2 carrots, finely diced

3 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, finely diced