Many people in the United States recognize the name mulligatawny as that of an Indian-style soup. However, this is technically not the case. Depending upon whom you ask, mulligatawny is either not Indian or not a soup.
The word “mulligatawny” comes from a pair of Tamil words, “mulliga” and “thanni”. These translate to “pepper-water” or “pepper-broth”, a name based on the fact that the original dish was made primarily with peppers. In India, the term was applied not to a soup, but to a sauce. This sauce would be served with rice, much like other curry-style Indian dishes.
Mulligatawny became a soup during the late 18th century, during the time of British colonialism in the country. The British stationed in India developed a taste for a lot of local dishes, many of which made their way back to their home country and throughout the Commonwealth. The British East India Company was responsible for introducing England to a dish inspired by India’s mulligatawny sauce.
Early versions of the dish probably consisted of a chicken and lamb broth, fried onions, and some form of curry powder. It was adapted over time to suit English tastes, going through different incarnations and gradually gaining popularity as a soup throughout the world. The people of Australia had a particular liking for the soup, and are responsible for much of its popularity in its current form.
Today, mulligatawny is often served in the form of a thick, spicy soup made with curry powder, vegetables, nuts, and rice. You can experience the taste of this long-time favorite at Spice Route in Bellevue.