Molagu Rasam ~ Mulligatawny Soup

“Memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them.”
– P. G. Wodehouse

A couple of weeks back M, a friend asked to share my recipe for mulligatawny soup. Here it is, a little late but nevertheless I made it. The reason she asked me is that mulligatawny traces its origin to the words – molagu thanni – meaning pepper water, and this is a staple preparation from Tamilnadu. However, the British version of this simple soup is very different and probably is not the recipe expected. That said, I’d like to present the common, simple and original vegetarian version. There exists a non-vegetarian version as well.

Do you know why the witty Mr.Wodehouse says not to stir them?

You could of course stir and drink and find out or you could read further and do the right thing. That is, don’t stir! If you can bear the heat of spicy pepper and cumin powders that settle in the rasam you must go ahead and do it. Some people actually love the heat. At a five star you would not get the residue – it would be strained.

Mulligatawny soup does stir up memories! Of stuffy noses and, times when I was sick and felt I could not digest a thing. At times like this my Mum would always stir up a quick molagu tanni (Pepper water) or molagu rasam (Meaning spiced pepper infusion). Oh, it always worked like magic. The pepper would melt the congestion and clear the chest, but the result was that I have permanently filed it under the folder ‘sick foods’. My children seem to love it even when they are not sick and it always baffles me! But then, that is normal. They are both teenagers!

Recipe: Molagu Rasam ~ Mulligatawny Soup (A spicy pepper infused soup)
Yield: 1/2 litre


Marble sized ball of tamarind
Water – 3-4 cups
Cumin seeds – 1.5 tsp.
Black peppercorns – 2 tsp.
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Asafoetida / Hing – A pinch
Salt to taste
Sesame oil – 1 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp.


Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes and then squish out the tamarind to extract its juice. Dilute with water till it measures a cup and set aside.

Heat a small wok or griddle and dry roast the cumin seeds and pepper corns separately till aromatic but not burnt. Powder using a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle.

In a vessel heat the tamarind extract, the pepper-cumin powder, asafoetida and curry leaves together till the raw smell of tamarind completely evaporates. Now dilute with 2 cups of water. Adjust salt and let it come to a boil and froth. Taste the infusion. If you cannot stand the heat of spices add a little more water to suit your palate and heat till frothy.

Remove from fire. Heat a wok with a tsp. of sesame oil. When the oil is heated, splutter mustard seeds and pour the oil over the infusion.

Note:  I prefer to avoid the final step of seasoning with oil and mustard.

Varations:You may add a tsp. of roasted coriander seeds as well if you want a different taste but this is molagu rasam in its most rustic form. Some people also add a tsp. of roasted pigeon peas while powdering. I make that too but we call it ‘arachhu vitta rasam’. But then, what’s in a name? Go ahead and choose what suits you best.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • asiansupper

    is it possible to eat this cold? the weather is unbearably hot here in new york…

  • Alka

    Me and kidoo both are sneezing like crazy…all congested…I just want to have loads of sleep and then relish this soup, piping hot….I love spicy soups when under weather..generally make hot and sour soup for myself in such scenario, but would love to give this a shot..I recently tasted Rasam for first time(Madras Mail…in the mall near your home..have you tried the Madrasi Thali there? )I do not know how the authentic Rasam tastes, but the one at Madras Mail was mindblowing…this one seems to have matching flavors with that….Kindly enlighten !
    And hey whats it about the "Googly"? All is well na?? Will give u a call in evening !
    Take care….
    PS:Rocking pictures as usual !

  • Jaya Wagle

    I am as surprised as Siri. PG Woodehouse said that??? But I guess he was right, hun.

    Isn't it amazing how foods we associate with being sick, our kids gobble up without a reason? My son loves khichadi any day. For me, it is something you eat when you are sick.

  • shanthi

    Its my favourite and wish to have it immediately.

  • RV

    Thanks for sharing the information about this soup.
    I remember having this soup loaded with rice and somehow I didn't like it.
    But I love the way you have prepared it. The idea of having this soup makes me feel warm and comforting.

  • Curry Leaf

    I too have seen several version of it,one recipe in femina is with coconut milk! This is a version I am familiar with.Thanks for the recipe

  • PJ

    Ultimate comfort food!!Looks delicious.And about that Chinese not knowing Manchurian -is so true.I have never seen/heard manchurian in China even after staying there for 4 years!!!And curry powder- many have asked me what it is and I am yet to answer that 🙂


    Hot piping Molagu rasam is apt for this weather, Slurp!

  • jayasree

    We call it jeera rasam at home. I too make it simlarly. Comfort food when you are sick.

    Harini, your pics looks cropped may be due to the template. It will be nice if we had more view of the pics.

  • Prathibha

    I love to have this when I have sore throat…looks nice

  • Khaugiri

    Wow luv the Rasam, I can fell the taste while reading the post.

  • sanjeeta kk

    Lovely comfort food. Like the color of this soup. Best wishes.

  • quaintkal

    i will try this day after though i am not sick 😀
    i loved your start to this post..and btw, am a huge fan of Wodehouse too 😀

  • meeso

    That looks nice and something different to try for stuffy noses 🙂

  • Siri

    Really, P.G Woodehouse said that?. :). I love mulligatawny soup, ate a lot times in a restaurant with lots of veggies floating. will try ur recipe as a my base and play around with it. Thanks.


  • veggie belly

    I love how light this is! the restaurant mullgatwanys ive had are thick and gloopy and it sems like they have almost disappeared off of restaurant menus after the 80s! yours looks yummy 🙂

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