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Mulligatawny is the Anglicized version of the Tamil (a southern Indian Dravidian language) words for "pepper water" or "pepper broth." It became popular with the British stationed in India (employees of the East India Company) during colonial times, during the late 18th century and later. When they returned home, they brought the recipe back with them to England, and to other members of the Commonwealth, especially Australia.
It was a rich curried soup originally made with peppers, hence the name. It has changed to suit differing tastes in Western culture, and has gone through many variations at various times and places. It is usually based on a chicken stock (also mutton or vegetable stock) and curry, with cream , pieces of chicken, onion, celery, apples and almonds and garnished with rice. The cream was very likely, originally coconut milk.
Vegetarian versions may contain lentils, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, rice and fresh coconut. I am told that Australians like to add tomatoes and bacon. Yogurt is sometimes used instead of cream or coconut milk. Today Mulligatawny bears little resemblance to the original.
It is still one of my favorite soups, in many, if not all of it's forms. Freshly grated or ground spices and herbs make a world of difference when making any curry, and Mulligatawny soup is no exception. So take the time to do it right and you will be well rewarded. It can be made as a mild curried soup, or it can be made to live up to its name "pepper water."
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