This recipe came to me via an Epicurious request from a reader. When I saw the recipe I nearly hit my head on the ceiling jumping for joy. Because this was (and still is) my favorite chicken curry soup. And the reason I was so excited? Because, now at long last, I could make my favorite Indian restaurant’s soup anytime my little old heart desired. And that restaurant is Shamiana Restaurant in Houghton (Kirkland) Washington. If you live in the Seattle area and have not had the pleasure of dining at this wonderful restaurant, I suggest you give it a try in the near future. But back to the soup.

This soup is not only easy to make, but once you acquire the spices, fairly economical to prepare. And as I have preached in the preface to many of my recipes, even the spices are economical if you buy them in bulk. And yes, I know – those darling little glass spice jars look so becoming in your kitchen cabinet. But dear readers, once you start using herbs and spices with shear abandon, which incidentally is what I hope you do, you will find that those little jars don’t really hold very much. And unless you are a descendant of the late John D. Rockefeller, and therefore have money to burn, that’s exactly what you are doing when you remove one of those tiny spice jars from the grocery store shelf and place it in your cart. You might as well take a $20 bill out of your wallet and set fire to it right there in the grocery store! But again, back to the soup.

I served this soup, along with three others, at the before concert meal for a recent JazzVox concert. But while I was considering this soup to be one of the available options, I frankly was concerned that Mulligatawny might be just a little bit too exotic for some people’s taste. Well after all these years, I should have known better! By and large, the people who attend our in-home concerts have as great an appetite for unfamiliar and different food as they do for fabulous vocal jazz. So needless to say, despite my uneasiness regarding serving this soup, it was very popular.

So next time you experience a burning desire for chicken soup, but want to challenge the arbitrary boundaries you have set on what constitutes said dish, make a pot of this delicious soup. You will soon learn that there is more to chicken soup than you ever imagined!  

Oh, and BTW – if you do decide to burn your money in a grocery store, please do not tell the authorities that is was because of my suggestion. I greatly appreciate your lack of candor in this regard. Thank you very much.

  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, finely diced and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a small amount of turmeric
  • 3 c. chopped onion
  • 1 lg. or 2 small carrots, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 T. garam masala
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ tsp. cayenne
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. kosher
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ c. dried red lentils, washed
  • 8 c. chicken stock
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2-3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 c. cooked basmati rice, opt.*
  • lemon wedges

Heat oil in a heavy large covered soup pot over medium heat. Add the chicken and sauté until just done. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onions, carrot, and celery; cook until onion is a light golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. (You want the onions slightly caramelized.) Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, bay leaves, salt, and pepper; stir for 1 minute. Add lentils; stir until coated. Add chicken broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and add coconut milk, fresh lemon juice, and reserved chicken. Cook for about a minute or until all the ingredients are hot. Adjust seasoning.

If you like rice in your soup, place a small amount in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle soup over and squeeze some fresh lemon over top.

*I wrote cooked rice as an optional ingredient, because in our house only one of us likes rice in his Mulligatawny. I prefer my soup without rice. Vive la différence!

Thanks Shamiana for this delightful recipe. And please pardon the changes.  



Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks