It’s soup season, at least in my home. This is the period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, when we try to eat light to prepare for the feasting that is to come.
I like soups, especially on rainy days, but not just any soup.
I like Asian soups and I like them hearty and full-bodied. Not the blended vegetable soups with cream served in Western meals.
No, I like my soups spicy, such as tom yam; and full-bodied, such as Peranakan soups, replete with meatballs, fishballs or even a whole duck.
Such soups demand a good stock, which I usually make in advance.
I buy chicken carcasses, with the fat and skin removed. I put them in a stockpot together with onions, carrots and celery and, sometimes, dried scallops and red dates, add water and bring it to a boil.
An hour or so later, during which I skim off any fat and scum, it is done. Once cooled, this stock is scooped into small plastic tubs and frozen for use any time. With ready stock, making soup is easy.
I decided to make mulligatawny soup, simply because I could not find one that I liked. While one social club does offer it on its menu, it is unfortunately a Northern Indian version, with the lavish addition of cream.
This curry soup is an Anglo-Indian dish, probably invented by the British colonials who loved their curries and their soups.
The English version has chopped apples and root vegetables. My recipe is a stripped-down version (with chilli in the curry powder).
Coconut milk can be used to thicken the soup but I prefer to use red lentils to add more flavour. While the soup is like a curry, it is not as overpowering nor as thick.
But what is most interesting about the soup are the spices in it.
Curry powder is a spice mix that may include turmeric, chilli, coriander, black pepper, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. They provide vitamins and minerals and have many health benefits.
The key ingredient appears to be turmeric, whose main active component is curcumin.
According to the Journal Of The American Chemical Society, the spice contains a wide range of antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger contains chemicals that work like some anti-inflammatory medications.
All the spices are cooked in what is basically a chicken soup, which is touted as a tonic in various cultures.
With chicken stock already in my freezer, I merely buy a couple of roasted drumsticks and use that to bulk up the soup.
Serve with a spoonful of cooked rice or more, while a squeeze of lemon juice, and Chinese celery leaves and fried shallots add more flavour to this delicious soup.
You can also have bread with it if you are not watching your calories too closely. Otherwise, mulligatawny is a healthy choice when you want something to eat, but not too much.
Get Sylvia Tan’s Spicy Mulligatawny Curry Soup recipe here.
Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her most recent recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.
Text: Sylvia Tan/The Straits Times
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