m. c. de marco: The New Kitchen Cookbook

Sri Lankan Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawnay soup seems to be the puttanesca (refrigerator surprise) of South Asian cooking. While the name (pepper water) comes from Sri Lanka, the Internet favors more British and/or Indian versions. What Sri Lankan versions are out there list individual spices rather than giving a quantity of Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. Also, I was a bit low on ingredients at the time, so this recipe is for a smaller batch than your average Internet recipe.


  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet or other hot pepper, diced or minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 tsp. ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
  • 1 carrot, diced (optional)
  • 1 apple, diced (optional)
  • ½ T. Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • 8 oz. diced tomatoes
  • about ½ lb. cooked diced chicken or turkey meat
  • 4 c. chicken broth or stock
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. lime or lemon juice
  • heaping ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (or chili powder to taste)
  • salt to taste


  1. Saute onions, hot pepper, carrots, celery and/or apple in oil until the onions are transparent.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and saute 2 more minutes.
  3. Add and saute spices for one minute.
  4. Add tomatoes, broth, and chicken.
  5. Cover and cook for ½ hour.
  6. Stir in coconut milk at the end and lime juice before serving.

Serve hot with rice or crusty bread.


You can put or make the rice directly in the soup.

You can use half the amount of coconut milk.

The apple comes from the Indian version, but is a handy substitute for the celery and carrot. Other common Indian-style additions are sugar, tamarind, and/or garam masala. Along these lines, up to 1 c. red lentils or other daal may be added.

There are vegan and vegetarian versions of the recipe. I’m interested in a dairy version with butter and cream, yogurt, or sour cream, and maybe mushrooms, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Try tossing in leftover peas, beans, hummus, or baba ghanoush.

Alternately to some of the ingredients, you can use dried arbol chilis and leeks.

For garnish, try chives, parsley, or cilantro.

Other odd additions I’ve seen include nutmeg, bay leaf, port wine, beer, eggplant, potatoes or sweet potato, butternut squash, a thickener like flour or chickpea flour, sausage, mushrooms, nuts, and (most strangely) spinach.

Sri Lankans serve the soup with string hoppers (idiyappam), which sound too difficult for me to ever attempt.

There are crockpot versions of this recipe, but that seems unnecessary unless you’re adding eggplant, raw meat, or something else that could use the cooking time.

There are Instant Pot recipes for the Indian version, which can be helpful when some of your ingredients are frozen. Coot at high pressure for 10 minutes, then release pressure manually and add the lemon juice and any garnishes. I would add the coconut milk at the end, too, though this recipe pressure cooks it in with the studier ingredients.