Shorba To Mulligatawny: Indian ‘Soups’ We Love With All Our Heart

The discussion to keep the A.C on or off is becoming quite a recurrent one in our living room. It is October, the nip in the air has convinced me that it is finally time to keep it off, but my brother, who is always sweating for some reason, insists on otherwise. However, we do happen to have something in common and that is our love for a well-made soup. The season change calls for a hearty broth; Minestrone, French Onion, Manchow are a few of my all-time favourites, but that doesn’t mean I will abandon my ‘Indian food pantry’ completely. 

Not every region in India eats course-wise. The Thali culture is very prevalent in many parts of the country, therefore the idea of ‘soups’ may come across as redundant to many. Still, however, there are many desi equivalents that not only qualify as 'soups' but also serve a slightly more fulfilling purpose, other than being mere ‘appetisers’. Here’s our ode to some of the classic Indian soups that have all our hearts. 

The Rousing Rasam

Hailing from South India, Rasam spells comfort to millions of Indian people today. The tangy soup has a watery consistency, which is a sharp departure from the slightly thick sambhar and even thicker chutneys. This spicy, clear soup has endless variations, which is also paired with rice and aplam (papad). The most popular rasam recipes contain tamarind pulp, curry leaves, garlic, tomato, water and lentils. You can purchase the readymade Rasam Masalas from the store to save some effort; however, if you want to prepare it from scratch for a more authentic experience, click on the link below. 

The Marvellous Mulligatawny 

When we have Rasam on the list, how can we leave out the mulligatawny soup? Although, by the end of the 18th century, the British in India were hooked to this ‘pepper water’, Mulligatawny is essentially an off-shoot of Rasam. The term Mulligatawny is derived from two Tamil words, ‘Milagay’ or ‘Milagu’, which means chilli or pepper and ‘Tanni’, which means water. The recipes of Mulligatawny soup featured in many British cookbooks, such as Maria Rundell's ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ published in 1844. 

The Scintillating Shorba 

Believed to be a gift from the Mughals to India, Shorba or Chorba is now a fashionable fixture in almost every North Indian gathering. Shorba is derived from the Arabic word ‘Shurba’, which means a gravy; some call it an amalgamation of Persian words ‘Shor’ (salty) and ‘Balab’ (stew). In the Mughal times, Shorba was prepared as a very thin and soothing gravy to cut through the monotony of loaded curries such as kormas and qaliyas. Even during the Mughal times, there were a variety of vegetarian shorbas that would make generous use of lentils and nuts, proving that there was nothing ‘run off the mill’ about these ‘gravies’. A lot of care and precision went to make this soothing stew, and here’s an easy-peasy recipe for you. 

The Powerful Paaya 

If the west has chicken soup, we have the ‘paaya’. Papaya is an Urdu word that means ‘legs’. The sheep, lamb, or goat trotters are cooked in a hearty broth with a slew of spices. This brown broth is a winter staple in parts of North India and Pakistan as it is said to have healing effects against cold, cough and body ache. That said, they also make for a flavourful addition to wedding menus and several such occasions. 

How many of these soups or stews have you tried?