A Memorable Soup

My first taste of Mulligatawny soup was in 1980 at the Big Tree Inn in Geneseo, New York. I had been in Geneseo – a sweet college town in Upstate, NY - performing with the college choir, preparing for our trip to Washington, DC. Penelope, my music theory professor from the Eastman School of Music, happened to be in Geneseo that day and invited me to lunch. The Big Tree Inn was then – and still is – a delightful place to have a meal or to stay for the night.

The soup was a revelation for me. At that time in my life, I was still unaccustomed to exotic flavors – I am not sure cumin or coriander had ever touched my taste buds, even though my mother was a phenomenal cook. My brothers and I never had Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Japanese food growing up, either at home or in restaurants. They simply were not options for my parents and, thus, not for us kids. Italian was about as far as we would go. Somehow, though, all four of us boys ended up loving all variety of ethnic foods.

My memory of the soup is of coconut, cilantro and green apple. Being that it was 32 years in my past, I am not sure that memory is correct. In my searching, I have yet to find a Mulligatawny soup that uses green apple, although they all use the coconut milk and cilantro.

Sometime, in the 1980s or possibly the early 1990s, I clipped a recipe for Mulligatawny soup from the newspaper. The memory of that lunch in 1980 was still strong, and I assumed I would make this soup immediately. But, as is often the way with my clippings. I paste them onto a page in my book and then – out of sight, out of mind – there they sit, many promises unfulfilled. This past summer, though, the recipe resurfaced.

One night, I was looking for a soup recipe that might – with a salad – be a full meal and could be served either hot or chilled. The low fat requirement also needed to be considered. I decided to get out the big book of clipped recipes and see what I could find. I saw this recipe and figured that if I used light coconut milk (Trader Joe’s brand is my favorite), I would have everything I required. I was not disappointed.

The blending of the flavors is amazing – curry, cumin, coriander, ginger and mango. What’s not to like? This is a hearty soup – easily made vegetarian – that is perfect for a chilled July evening, or heated and served fireside in the winter months. Either way, it makes you warm inside, and I don’t think that is just from my fond memories of that day in 1980.

- David

Chilled Mulligatawny Soup

4 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon curry powder (I use Maharajah Curry Powder from Penzey’s)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
skim milk, if needed, to thin the soup
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat oil and add onions. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 8-10 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high, and cook until golden brown – about 6-8 minutes. Add grated ginger and continue to cook for 2 minutes, until very fragrant.

Add the curry powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne, stirring for 1 minutes. Add carrot slices and mango, stir, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Purée in a blender and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large, non-metallic bowl. Stir in coconut milk and cover; refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Before serving, check consistency. If too thick, thin it with a little skim milk. Ladle into wide soup plates and garnish with cilantro. It may also be served hot.

Serves 8.


  1. I cannot wait to try this soup out. I have never seen it here in Sydney but I remember it was one of the soups that 'The Soup Nazi" served on Seinfeld! Looks wonderful and the flavours are right up my alley.

  2. Oh! I love the colorful photos and recipe in this post! I was actually trying to "picture" how this would taste :D

  3. Anna - Seriously, the funniest thing about this is that it in no way resembles the soup I had in 1980, but I love the spices and flavors so much more than what I had back then. I really think you will like it!

    Thanks, Anh! It is very colorful - both visually and taste-wise. Let me know what you think if you try it!

  4. This is one of your prettiest posts. I love the vibrant shades of orange! I am not familiar with the soup either so I look forward to trying soon!!! ( I can't wait until Trader Joe's breaks ground on their store here! Or, better yet, opens up!) BTW, do you know where the name comes from? Best, Susan

  5. Thanks, Susan! The name Mulligatawny is Tamil, - Milagu tanni - and means "pepper water." When made in India (according to a friend whose mother often makes this) it isn't puréed and does not have the coconut milk. Still, I like this version a lot.


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