MULLI-GUT-WAAN-EE. That’s how it’s pronounced.
If you haven’t heard of this soup and you’re Indian, don’t feel too badly about it; I never knew about it growing up and never heard it mentioned on my many trips to parts of India! It’s been translated many times over and isn’t any longer an authentic Indian dish. Originally, mullig meant “pepper” and waney meant “water. It became an adapted British stew/soup that came about when the Brits were occupying India. They probably having come upon South Indian style rasam, a thin broth-like pungent soup with many spices that is served alongside a traditional Indian meal, just like daal dishes are presented. The soldiers then changed it up back home, creating their mulligatwaney soup using the flavors they reminisced about when they were in India. To make it a heartier soup course, they added meats and sometimes other ingredients like apple or coconut, ingredients not often found in the original “rasam” dish (here’s a recipe similar to the one I make).
My take on Mulligatwaney adapts it even further to reflect healthy, nutrient-dense, plant-heavy cooking. My recipe still has all the spices to add intrinsic culinary medicinal properties and flavor, but I’ve incorporated more seasonal vegetables and legumes for added protein. I also recently taught the recipe to a class at the Sustainable Food Center here in Austin with my colleague and friend Dr. Shelly Sethi, a fellowship-trained Integrative Medicine physician. She and I will be collaborating on more classes in the Fall and the topic will always be some aspect of culinary medicine, so stay tuned to my subscription newsletter for that!
This substantial vegetarian stew, my version of mulligatwaney, is a hit with our Meal Share Plan group, including the children, and I’m happy to share the recipe here with you!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne, or Indian chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
- 2 carrots, sliced into ½ inch coins
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- 6 leaves Swiss chard, thinly sliced into ribbons
- 1 juicy ripe tomato
- 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. The oil should heat gently and thoroughly and should not smoke at all.
- Test the heat of the oil by popping in a cumin seed. If it sizzles, the oil is ready.
- Saute the cumin seed for about 10 seconds until some darkening has occurred and the aroma has released. Lower heat if necessary—you don’t want to burn the seeds!
- Quickly stir in the chopped onion and celery and cook for a few minutes, allowing the onions to “sweat” and not brown. Stir in the turmeric, coriander, chili powder, black pepper, and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add in the sweet potatos and carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the stock and the chickpeas. Bring to a boil then partially cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the chard and tomato. Cook for a minute or so, then add the coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro. Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes at a simmer or until vegetables are fork-tender.
- Serve piping hot as a first course Western-style soup dish.