Authentic Pakistani Chicken Mulligatawny Soup is a delicious curried soup first created during the time of the British Raj. Now a traditional part of South Asian cuisine, the soup is a velvety smooth concoction made with lentils, chicken stock and coconut milk. A full bodied soup,often enjoyed with a crusty loaf of french bread for lunch on a cold winter day, it is also often served as a first course at lavish dinners. It is bound to please you either way.
The Original Soup
Chicken Mulligatawny Soup! Now that's a tongue twister and a mouthful! A soup of Tamil origin, called Millagu (pepper) Thanni (water), as per lovefood.com it was originally consumed by the poor in Sri Lanka. Thin, watery and bland, the original is a far cry from the thick rich version being presented in this recipe.
The Anglo Indian Version
Soups have historically not been a part of South Asian Cuisine, the only other known South Asian soup being Tomato Rasam. However, during the time of the British Raj, the Expatriates of the East India Company wanted a soup to be served at dinner. Indian cooks took the Tamil pepper water and recreated Mulligatawny Soup. A creamy and dense soup thickened with lentils and rice and seasoned with traditional Indian spices, Mulligatawny Soup definitely has a unique taste.
As the expatriates living in India took the recipe back to their homeland the soup gained popularity in Britain. In 1810, immigrant Dean Mahomed opened The Hindostanee Coffee-House in London. Per hindustantimes.com there was Mulligatawny Soup on the menu at the establishment that the nobility at the time frequented.
By the 19th Century the soup was a household feature in Great Britain. With the Heinz company was selling tins of the soup in grocery stores, the Mulligatawny soup was more popular there than in India.
Assorted Recipe Variations
With the passage of time there have been many variations of the soup. Assorted Meats, vegetables and at times even apples are added to the stock and heavy whipping cream and sour cream are sometimes used in place of coconut milk to finish the soup off at the end. Even today, if you search for the recipe you'll find that each one is different.
By now you've probably figured out that I love lentils! Check out my dhaba style maash daal and my hyderabadi khatti (sour) daal (lentils) if you haven't already! Keeping in mind all of my healthy eating resolutions I thought cooking lentils was a great way to kickstart 2021!
My favorite version of this soup is one I ate weekly at Sindh Club. The British left Pakistan with Chicken Mulligatawny Soup and the concept of Clubs. The equivalent of a country club in America; with a gym, swimming pool, library and restaurant, these clubs are where the old and young in Pakistan socialize.
My family had weekly Sunday dinner at Sind Club and I always (and I mean always) ordered the Chicken Mulligatawny Soup. Now, as an adult living abroad, I often crave this soup but unfortunately it isn't something that's easily available where I live. I've spent years trying to perfect this recipe and get it as close as I can to the one of my childhood.
Per my husband, at who's request I recently made the soup, I almost have the recipe down! Apart from getting a first hand tutorial from the chef at Sind Club, this is as close as I think I'll get so in my book the recipes a keeper! I hope you like it as much as I do!
The Recipe For The Authentic Pakistani Chicken Mulligatawny Soup
I think the main thing that makes or breaks a good Mulligatawny Soup is the lentils you use. In this soup, after much trial and error, the split pigeon peas are undeniably the way to go!
Most recipes will tell you to use red lentil,s but I just didn't get that dense texture that I remember the soup at Sind Club had with those. My experiments led me to Split Pigeon Peas and I haven't wavered since then!
The spices in this recipe are used primarily for fragrance and not to add actual heat to the soup. The curry powder is a must! Fortunately, it's easily available at most grocery stores so you shouldn't have any difficulty sourcing it.
The next ingredient, the Bay Leaves, add a great fragrance to the soup. But do remember to pluck them out at the end as they won't blend properly at the puree stage! The curry leaves on the other hand are very tender and blend well with the mixture.
Cooking the actual soup is fairly simple as illustrated below. Heat the oil and sauté the onions, ginger, garlic and chillies. Add all your remaining ingredients and cook to make your soup. As the soup starts to thicken, it will absorb the color of the lentils and spices as shown below.
Puree the soup and add the coconut milk to give it that smooth creamy finish and don't forget your toppings! The soup is a hearty thick soup but if you find it too thick add a little bit of chicken stock to liquify!
Hope you like this recipe! Please remember to tag, rate and review this recipe before you leave this page!
Authentic Pakistani Chicken Mulligatawny Soup
Rice For Garnish
- 4 tbsp basmati rice SEE NOTE
- 1 cup water
Chicken For Garnish
- 1 chicken breast
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ¼ inch ginger piece
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion SEE NOTE
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 green chili SEE NOTE
- ½ cup split pigeon peas
- 4 tbsp basmati rice SEE NOTE
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp corriander powder
- 2 tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 8 curry leaves
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 lime
Rice For Garnish
- rinse the rice three times
- boil on high heat with 1 cup water till all of the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes)
- cover and set aside for later
Chicken For Garnish
- boil the chicken with all of the ingredients and the one cup of water till cooked through (about 20-30 minutes)
- remove the chicken from the water and shred into pieces
- set aside for later
- heat the olive oil
- add the onions and saute till just translucent
- add the green chillies, ginger and garlic for about 1 minute
- add the chicken stock, pigeon peas, basmati rice, tomato paste, bay leaves, salt, corriander powder, curry powder and turmeric and bring to a boil on high heat
- reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour
- remove the bay leaves at this point
- add the curry leaves and stir
- using an immersion blender or regular blender puree the soup
- add the coconut milk and mix in
- at the time of serving add a tbsp of rice and chicken as a garnish to each individual soup plate and serve with cut lime wedges
- Cook and set aside the first 4 tablespoons mentioned in the recipe, using it as a garnish for the soup at the time of serving.
- Add the other 4 tablespoons to the stock at the time of cooking to help thicken the soup.
I just made this for my mom in Ohio and it is a huge hit! Perfect for a snowy afternoon!
I love that! Thank You for making it! Stay warm and happy holidays!
Absolutely delicious. After making this for the very first time, my family asked me when I was going to make it again!
Thank You Michelle! I hope it becomes a family favorite!
Good recipe. The family loved this version of the soup. Thanks
Glad you liked it and thank you for leaving a review.
Pragya Deb Burman
Sorry, didn't mean pre British days, typing error on my part! Also please do share old pudding recipes!
I will definitely do so. Any particular pudding you'd like to see up here? I can maybe prioritize it.
Please tell me what you mean by green chili? I am familiar with cans of green chiles for Mexican food and I buy Thai chilis for another recipe. I'd like to try this recipe but need the clarification, thanks!
I'm sorry I wasn't clear in the recipe. I usually use fresh chili peppers and serrano chili's are my go to. If you prefer things less spicy or can't get hold of a serrano then substitute with a jalapeno instead. I'll go and edit the recipe to make it clearer for all users. Good luck! I hope you do try the recipe and like it. Let me know if I can be of any other help
Pragya Deb Burman
After hunting for an authentic Mulligatawny recipe, I finally found yours. Thanks so much, it is the closest to what we used to have as children. My late father had excellent khansamaas (chefs), way back in the 1940's and the recipes were all handed down only to a few but never written. I'm talking about the pre-British days, when recipes were closely guarded amongst certain families and were relished by a lucky few at formal dinner parties.
I have yet to make this soup but by just going through the ingredients and the method, I can vouch for it since the taste still lingers in both my palate as well as memory! Normally the soup would be ladled out on a soup plate and the finely chopped boiled chicken, a tablespoon of rice and a wedge of lemon would be served alongside it. Most people tend to confuse Mulligatawny with lentil soup (Doll soup was how it used to be referred to then!), so it would be nice if you have one and could share it.
All the best and thanks again. With love from a remote corner of N. EAST INDIA!
Pragya thank you so much for what you wrote.I'm so pleased the soup brought back a wonderful memory for you, it makes my blogging journey so worthwhile as that is the entire premise of my blog. I hope you do try it. It took me a while to develop the recipe to the one you have described gere, with the boiled chicken, rice and lemon wedge. I will definitely work on some old puddings and if there's a specific one you'd like please let me know.
By split pigeon peas.. do you mean ‘Arhar Ka daal’. Please clarify..
Yes Split Pigeon Peas are “Arhar ka daal”. I will add it as an edit in the post to avoid confusion
My family loved it and have already requested that I make it agin soon.
So glad you liked it Michelle and really appreciate you giving me the feedback!
Simply Superb! This is undoubtedly the best and most authentic mulligatawny recipe I've ever tried! I used orange masoor daal and an extra green chilli instead of the red chilli powder and it turned out amazing. Thanks Nosheen! So delighted to have found it!!
Thank You Ayesha! Love the swaps you made. Will try it your way next time I make it!
What blend would you recommend instead of curry powder to make in Pakistan
Romina, curry powder is just a blend of assorted spices. To make a simple one use 1/4 tsp each of the following:
coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chili pepper, black pepper, ginger, mustard and ground cardamom powder. This will add up to 2 teaspoons of curry powder.
I made this yesterday and it was absolutely outstanding. The recipe makes 6 servings, but I had the whole thing by myself! A perfect balance of intense flavors, my palette will continue to sing it's praises for a long, long time.
I'm thrilled that you liked it enough to finish it all by yourself...your family probably not so much! Thank you for the feedback!