Soup from the East

18 Oct

Growing up in Pakistan one of my favorite soups was “Mulligatawny” soup – a thick, mustard-hued tangy lentil soup garnished with fried onions and lemon slices with a hint of fine chicken pieces and rice.

Not a very common item on menus, the best variation of this soup was found mostly in luxury hotels or country clubs. Over time though, this soup from the East is becoming more ubiquitous in South Asia. My earliest memories of having this soup were in the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. One of the multiple occasions I had this soup happened to be a dinner with my mother’s American colleague who was of South Indian descent. When the Mulligatawny soup arrived on the table and we began to dig in her colleague pointed out that what we were consuming was not in fact the authentic version of this distinctive soup.He explained that the literal translation of Mulligatawny from Tamil is “pepper water” (‘Millagu’ is pepper and ‘Thanni’ is water). The “real” Mulligatawny soup is traditionally a clear curry flavored soup containing vegetables and occasionally rice or noodles. Upon research I realized there are multiple versions of this soups with ingredients ranging from almonds, coconut milk, eggs to lamb!

My favorite version remains the hearty lemony thick yellow soup I have grown up eating – which is the most common version of this soup in South Asia.

Not very commonly found on menus in the U.S or Europe, I recently rediscovered this soup in Sri Lanka where it is a staple item on the menu in most hotels or restaurants. I have probably tried 5 or 6 different restaurants here serving Mulligatawny soup, each one being different from the other. The common factor between all of them is the mustard color, thick texture and hearty flavor. If you ever happen to be visiting South Asia and find this on a menu make sure to try it!

– F

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2 Responses to “Soup from the East”

  1. shaheryar mirza October 19, 2010 at 2:43 AM #

    yeah I’ve always wondered about this. I’ve had so many different versions of this when eating out across Pakistan.

  2. Harsha November 3, 2010 at 5:56 PM #

    I’m also a big fan of the soup as well. I liken it most to rasam or sambar in andhra/south indian cuisine. I think all the inputs are the same. Nice read, Rida!

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