Mulligatawny Soup: Is It Indias First Soup? What Is It Made Of?


Micro-cuisines need champions. One of the positive outcomes of pandemic-induced lifestyles, particularly in 2020 was the emergence of home chefs and smaller cloud kitchens that championed rare and, in many cases, dying cuisines. Anglo-Indian cuisine is one such cuisine that has seen a declining interest through the 2010s. I still remember my interactions with Bridget White-Kumar in 2012 and again after almost a decade in 2021. She has published multiple recipe books on the cuisine and also manages a popular Anglo-Indian food blog. As one of the custodians of this unique cuisine, she takes comfort in the growing interest in the cuisine in a post-pandemic world where platforms like Instagram have played a significant role in culinary trends.

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Just a month ago, Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai unveiled the Ministry of Chutneys, positioned as one of the first restaurants in India to showcase Anglo-Indian cuisine. It’s close to St. Thomas Mount, home of one of Chennai’s most historic churches and associated with St. Thomas the apostle. The restaurant is also a tribute to the neighbourhood that has long been one of the hubs of Chennai’s Anglo-Indian community. Even as many Anglo-Indians have moved to Melbourne, the UK and Canada in large numbers, Anglo-Indian cuisine has relied on colonial-era hotels like the Taj Connemara or clubs like the Madras Club and Madras Gymkhana club to showcase recipes from the last couple of centuries. There’s probably no dish representing Anglo-Indian cuisine better than Mulligatawny Soup, with references that go as far back as 1784.

Soups were probably not a thing in 18th Century cuisine. There are quite a few legends about the mulligatawny soup. Most culinary experts agree that the culinary staff at British colonial homes in the erstwhile Madras Presidency might have served pepper rasam as a remedy for the common cold or fever. It’s this pepper rasam that eventually became the mulligatawny. The name of the soup is an Anglicised and some might say corrupted version of milagu thani (or pepper water). In many Anglo-Indian homes, rasam was just called pepper water.

The mulligatawny soup in the Madras Club remains my gold standard for this soup. I don’t think I’ve tasted a better version of this soup anywhere else. Also called the ‘Ace of Clubs’, the Madras Club dates back to 1832 and is India’s second oldest surviving club after the Bengal Club, Calcutta. A few years before Madras Club was established, William Kitchiner, a celebrity cook of that era (when you didn’t need Instagram to be famous) wrote in 1827 that Mulligatawny Soup had become popular in British households. In 1805 one of the best-known food writers of the time, Maria Rundell published A New System of Domestic Cookery, one of the most popular English cookbooks of the 19th Century. This book included three versions of the Mulligatawny soup.

Executive Chef Kishore helms the kitchen at the Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai. Even as I tried some of the signature Anglo-Indian dishes from the menu at the Ministry of Chutneys like the Mutton Ball curry, our conversation drifted towards Mulligatawny soup. Chef Kishore describes it as a curried lentil soup. His version (see recipe) is cooked with vegetable stock, there’s also a version with chicken and chicken stock. This soup is perfect for dinner and is quite simple to make:

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Mulligatawny Soup Recipe | How To Make Mulligatawny Soup

Recipe Courtesy – Kishore, Executive Chef, Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai

What is Mulligatawny soup made of?


Coconut Oil- 25 ml

Shallots- 20 gm

Chopped Ginger- 10 gm

Chopped Garlic- 5 gm

Green Chili- 2

Turmeric Powder- 5 gm

Curry Leaves- 5 gm

Whole Coriander Seeds- 15 gm

Whole Jeera- 15 gm

Madras Curry Powder- 10 gm

Apple- 40 gm

Celery- 15 gm

Potato- 40 gm

Masoor Dal- 100 gm

Coriander Stem- 35 gm

Coconut Milk- 15 ml

Salt- 15 gm

Boiled Rice- 5 gm


  • Heat a pan with coconut oil, sweat the shallots, ginger, garlic, green chilli and curry leaves
  • Add all the whole spices and curry powder and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the Soaked lentil, potato, apple and coriander stem and sauté them.
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer till all the vegetables and lentils are cooked.
  • Blend the soup till a smooth puree and pass it through a strainer.
  • Add coconut milk, boiled rice and lime juice and stir it. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.

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