A bowl of soup in a metal bowl
Mulligatawny as served in Mumbai
Place of originTamil Nadu, India
Serving temperatureHot, often with rice
Similar dishesRasam

Mulligatawny (/ˌmʌlɪɡəˈtɔːni/ ) is a soup which originated from South Indian cuisine. The name originates from the Tamil words miḷagu (மிளகு 'black pepper'), and taṇṇi (தண்ணி, 'water'); literally, "pepper-water".[1] It is related to the dish rasam.[citation needed]

Main ingredients commonly include chicken, mutton, and lentils.[2]


Mulligatawny was popular in India by the end of the 18th century,[1] and by the 19th century it began to appear in cookbooks of the day, with each cook (or cookbook) featuring its own recipe.[3] Recipes for mulligatawny varied greatly at that time and over the years (e.g., Maria Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery contained three versions), and later versions of the soup included British modifications that included meat,[4] although the local Madras (modern Chennai) recipe on which it was based did not.[5] Early references to it in English go back to 1784.[6] In 1827, William Kitchiner wrote that it had become fashionable in Britain:

Mullaga-Tawny signifies pepper water. The progress of inexperienced peripatetic Palaticians[a] has lately been arrested by this outlandish word being pasted on the windows of our Coffee-Houses; it has, we believe, answered the "Restaurateurs'" purpose, and often excited John Bull, to walk in and taste—the more familiar name of Curry Soup—would, perhaps, not have had sufficient of the charms of novelty to seduce him from his much-loved Mock-Turtle. It is a fashionable Soup and a great favourite with our East Indian friends, and we give the best receipt[b] we could procure for it.[7][8]

Mulligatawny recipe from Charles Dickens's weekly magazine All The Year Round, 22 August 1868 (page 249)

By the mid-1800s, Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert (1840–1916), under the pen name Wyvern, wrote in his popular Culinary Jottings that "really well-made mulligatunny is ... a thing of the past."[5] He also noted that this simple recipe prepared by poorer natives of Madras as made by "Mootoosamy" was made by pounding:

a dessert-spoonful of tamarind, six red chillies, six cloves of garlic, a tea-spoonful of mustard seed, a salt-spoonful of fenugreek seed, twelve black peppercorns, a tea-spoonful of salt, and six leaves of karay-pauk. When worked to a paste, he adds a pint of water, and boils the mixture for a quarter of an hour. While this is going on, he cuts up two small onions, puts them into a chatty, and fries them in dessert-spoonful of ghee till they begin to turn brown, when he strains the pepper-water into the chatty, and cooks the mixture for five minutes, after which it is ready. The pepper-water is, of course, eaten with a large quantity of boiled rice, and is a meal in itself. The English, taking their ideas from this simple composition, added other condiments, with chicken, mutton, &c., thickened the liquid with flour and butter, and by degrees succeeded in concocting a soupe grasse of a decidedly acceptable kind.[5][9]


According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the simplest version of the soup included chicken or mutton, fried onion, and spices.[2] More complex versions may call for "a score of ingredients". Versions originating in southern India commonly called for lentils.[2]

Popular culture

The dish features in the sketch Dinner for One which is broadcast every New Year's Eve in Scandinavia and Germany.[10]

In episode 6 from season 7 of the TV show Seinfeld, the character Elaine casually orders a “Mulligatawny” soup from the infamous Soup Nazi’s soup stand. However, after Elaine comments that the Soup Nazi looks like Al Pacino, he bans Elaine from the soup stand for one year and she does not get her soup.

Alfred mentions that Mulligatawny is Batman's favorite soup in Batman #701.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "Palatician" may be a nonce word derived from "palate", in the sense of the ability to distinguish between and appreciate different flavours.
  2. ^ "Receipt" is an old form of "recipe".


  1. ^ a b Clarkson, Janet (2010). Soup : a global history. London: Reaktion. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-86189-774-9. OCLC 642290114.
  2. ^ a b c Davidson, Alan (2014). The Oxford companion to food. Tom Jaine, Soun Vannithone (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 21, 330. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7. OCLC 890807357.((cite book)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  3. ^ Leong-Salobir, Cecilia (2011). Food Culture in Colonial Asia: A Taste of Empire. Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-415-60632-5.
  4. ^ Dawe, W.H. (1888). The wife's help to Indian cookery : being a practical manual for housekeepers. London: Elliot Stock. p. 74.
  5. ^ a b c "Wyvern" [Kenney-Herbert, Arthur Robert 1840–1916] (1885). Culinary Jottings. A treatise in thirty chapters on reformed cookery for Anglo-Indian rites, based upon modern English and continental principles with thirty menus (5 ed.). Madras: Higginbotham and Co. pp. 306–307.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Yule, Henry (1902). Hobson Jobson (2 ed.). London: John Murray. p. 595.
  7. ^ Kitchiner, William (1827). The Cook's Oracle; Containing Recipes for Plain Cookery on the Most Economical Plan for Private Families. Edinburgh: Cadell and Co. pp. 262–263.
  8. ^ Roy, Modhumita (2010). "Some Like It Hot: Class, Gender and Empire in the Making of Mulligatawny Soup". Economic and Political Weekly. 45 (32): 66–75. JSTOR 20764390.
  9. ^ Procida, Mary (2003). "Feeding the Imperial Appetite Imperial Knowledge and Anglo-Indian Domesticity". Journal of Women's History. 15 (2): 123–149. doi:10.1353/jowh.2003.0054. S2CID 143009780.
  10. ^ Oltermann, Philip (30 December 2022). "European New Year's Eve TV staple Dinner for One to get prequel treatment". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2022.