In a particular volume of DC’s Batman comics, the Gotham City superhero’s butler Alfred serves him a bowl of hot, nutritious Mulligatawny soup. Packed with meaty flavours, Mulligatawny is known the world over as a British dish, but it actually has its true origins in Tamil Nadu’s Rasam. Here’s everything you should know.
Let’s first just admit the fact that when foodies read comic books, every mention of food stands out for us. Whether it is Spiderman indulging in Aunt May’s Cherry Pie or The Flash eating a big buffet, we love it when comic-book superheroes eat foods that we love too. For Indians, however, these references are usually a bit alienating because the most globally well-loved superheroes rarely eat Indian food. Well, this story about Batman loving Mulligatawny soup and so, indirectly, Rasam, will change all that for you!
The dark knight of Gotham City, the DC superhero whom we all love for his bat signal and bat mobile is always hard at work bringing villains like The Joker and The Penguin to justice. But do you know what dish Batman loves to unwind with when he gets home? In a panel from Batman Vol 1 #701, Bruce Wayne is seen coming home after a long day, and Alfred, his loyal butler, whips up some Mulligatawny soup for the superhero to enjoy. “I prepared Mulligatawny soup, your favourite,” Alfred is seen as commenting in the panel.
Video Credit: YouTube/Food Wishes
For those who don’t know, Mulligatawny is an Indian soup variety that originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. While most people might assume Mulligatawny has British origins, it is in fact a Tamil dish. The very word Mulligatawny is an Anglicised version of Milagay or Milagu (chilli) and Tanni (water), two Tamil words that refer to hot soups that are very popular in the region’s cuisine. In fact, Mulligatawny is linked to Rasam, that tangy and spicy soup with healing properties.
Traditionally, Rasam is made with lentils, chillies, tomatoes, tamarind and mild spices and is consumed as a starter or beverage. During monsoon and winters, Rasam is considered to be quite the comfort food with the ability to cure coughs, colds and boost immunity. Mulligatawny is a hybrid version of Rasam prepared with chicken, mutton or lamb as a substitute for the protein-packed lentils. Mulligatawny also includes chicken stock, veggies like carrot, tomato, celery and onions, spices like curry powder, cumin, red chilli powder and ginger. The dish is often topped with fried onions, meat chunks and cashews.
Clearly adapted from Rasam, Mulligatawny first made its appearance in the 18th century in Madras Presidency under British colonial rule. Maria Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery, published in 1805, mentions a recipe for Mulligatawny soup—proving that the meaty adaptation of Rasam had made its way to Britain very early on. And why not? Rasam is a hot soup packed with nutritious ingredients, and Britain has always endured cold winters.
It is also quite clear that just the way Rasam made its way to Britain and turned into Mulligatawny soup, the latter’s story and flavours must have reached the ears—or maybe even the taste buds—of Batman creator Bob Kane. It is important to note here though that Mulligatawny isn’t the only soup Kane showed Batman loving. Other volumes of Batman comics show him enjoying warm bowls of French Onion Soup. And if Batman can get strengthened by and unwind with a bowl of superhero soup, then why don’t you try the same with some Mulligatawny or its original soup, Rasam?