Mulligatawny Soup (A Decent Bowl)

bowl of Mulligatawny soup

     “So, where do you have to go to get a decent bowl of mulligatawny soup?”

     How many times have I heard some needy and hungry soul utter those words? Actually . . . never – but that doesn’t mean it’s never been asked.

     As a matter of fact, Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert wrote about this problem back in 1885 in his book Culinary Jottings: A Treatise In Thirty Chapters On Reformed Cookery For Anglo-Indian Rites, Based Upon Modern English And Continental Principles With Thirty Menus in which he wrote the following:

“I think that a really well-made mulligatunny is, comparatively speaking, a thing of the past. Perhaps then, a few words regarding this really excellent, and at times, most invigorating soup may be acceptable. In attempting this, I am anxious to address my observations to vegetarians, as well as to those who have no objection to eat meat, for I hope to be able to show that a very excellent mulligatunny can be made without any assistance from flesh or fowl.

This preparation, originally peculiar to Southern India, derives its name from two Tamil words – molegoo (pepper), and tunnee (water). In its simple form, as partaken of by the poorer natives of Madras, it is, as its name indicates a “pepper-water” soup.”

     Three things should be noted at this point:

  • That the longest book title on record is 670 words, so Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert’s title isn’t even close.
  • That mulligatawny was evidently spelled differently (mulligatunny) in the 1800s.
  • That this is an English soup with origins in Indian cuisine and not native to India.

      But back to the question, where does one go to get a decent bowl of mulligatawny soup? I don’t see it generally offered in restaurants, so I’m offering to you a wonderful recipe for this delightful dish. At preparation’s end you’ll not only end up with a delicious and spicy soup, but I think you’ll enjoy the process as well.

     Each step will add a different bouquet to your kitchen. You’ll start with pieces of chicken simmering in a pan on the stove as you are preparing the broth. In a Dutch oven you will sauté the onions and carrots ,adding the garlic and fresh ginger at the end. This will be added to the chicken and stock. Wheat berries are cooked and then added to the concoction with final additions of tomato paste, red chili paste, apples, and sweet potatoes.

     By cooking it yourself you will have a keen awareness of its ingredients. This way, as you taste it, you will better understand its exotic complexity. So where does one go to get a decent an outstanding bowl of Mulligatawny soup? Why, to your kitchen, of course.

Mulligatawny Soup (A Decent Bowl)

yields: 6 Servings prep time: The day before cook time: The day before
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2 tsp 3 1/2 tsp 4 6 cups 2 Tbsp 1 medium 1 medium 3 cloves 1 tsp 3 Tbsp 4 tsp 1 large 1 large 2 tsp 4 cups To taste
Pepper black freshly ground Garam masala Chicken thighs (skin and bone intact) Chicken broth Butter Onion diced Carrot diced Garlic minced Ginger fresh grated Tomato paste Chili paste roasted red Asian Apple peeled and diced Potato sweet peeled and diced Vinegar apple cider Wheat berries cooked Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp
    Pepper black freshly ground
  • 3 1/2 tsp
    Garam masala
  • 4
    Chicken thighs (skin and bone intact)
  • 6 cups
    Chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp
  • 1 medium
    Onion diced
  • 1 medium
    Carrot diced
  • 3 cloves
    Garlic minced
  • 1 tsp
    Ginger fresh grated
  • 3 Tbsp
    Tomato paste
  • 4 tsp
    Chili paste roasted red Asian
  • 1 large
    Apple peeled and diced
  • 1 large
    Potato sweet peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp
    Vinegar apple cider
  • 4 cups
    Wheat berries cooked
  • To taste
    Salt and pepper


I would suggest making the soup a day ahead of time. Add to a container and refrigerate, and then reheat it prior to serving it to your guests.

Prepare ingredients using the mis en place concept:

  • Diced onion and carrots together in a bowl.
  • Garlic and ginger in a bowl.
  • Diced apple and sweet potato in a bowl.
  • Other ingredients at the ready. 

Time: About 3 hours

    1. Mix together the black pepper and garam masala ahead of time, and prepare the three mis en place. Set aside.
  1. Add chicken thighs and chicken stock to a large saucepan. Heat to boil, and then turn down heat to med/low and cook for one hour. Remove thighs to cool.


  2. Heat the butter over medium heat in the bottom of a Dutch oven.  Then add the onion and carrots.  When the vegetables have softened and wilted (about 10 minutes), add the garlic, ginger and spice mixture, stirring for about one minute.

  3. Then add the chicken broth to Dutch oven.


  4. Remove the skin from thighs and discard. Remove the meat from the bones and dice it. Add the meat and the bones. Cook on med/low heat for another hour.

  5. Cook the wheat berries in a small saucepan according to package directions (takes about an hour). To get 4 cups of cooked wheat berries, add 1.5 cups of dry berries to 6 cups of water.


  6. Stir in the tomato paste, roasted red chile paste, apples and sweet potatoes.  Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft.


  7. Add the cooked wheat berries (along with its liquid) and the apple cider vinegar. You can adjust the consistency with either chicken broth or water.  Taste for seasoning adding salt as needed.  At this point add to a storage container and put in refrigerator. About 30 minutes before your target time, reheat on stove. Remove and discard the bones and serve.


Note:  Can be kept on stove on low heat until ready.  Add water from time to time if needed. The longer this soup sits the better it will taste.  Good with the Klinker Brick Syrah.

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