Mulligatawny means "pepper water" in Tamil. It is a traditional soup from southern India, brought to Europe by the British. This vivid version includes chicken broth, coconut milk, lentils, and plenty of spices. This recipe has been adapted from "Curries & Bugles: A Memoir & Cookbook of the British Raj," by Jennifer Berman (HarperCollins; 1990).


  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 1 can (13 ½ ounces) light coconut milk

  • 1 quart homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock

  • 6 tablespoons masoor dal or split yellow peas

  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro

  • 3 tablespoons basmati rice

  • ½ teaspoon tamarind concentrate

  • Garam masala, for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Process garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne, bay leaf, and oil in a food processor to form a paste.

  2. Melt ghee or butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add spice paste, and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

  3. Add coconut milk, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in stock, masoor dal or split peas, and cilantro, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add rice, and cook 15 minutes.

  4. Pour through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in tamarind concentrate, and bring to a simmer. Serve sprinkled with garam masala.

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