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Madras Day | Made in Madras

When rasam morphed to Milagutawny soup
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Rasam travels the world and returns in new avatar

August 20, 2023 12:56 am | Updated August 21, 2023 05:56 pm IST

The humble Milagu rasam has travelled the world and returned to the city as Milagutawny soup at the Taj Coromandel Hotel, in Chennai.

The humble Milagu rasam has travelled the world and returned to the city as Milagutawny soup at the Taj Coromandel Hotel, in Chennai. | Photo Credit: R. RAVINDRAN

The humble milagu rasam, a comfort food during Chennai’s monsoon, is hardly a head-turner, you would think. Yet, the simple dish that is easy on the stomach with the goodness of pepper, tamarind and cumin powder that lifts the spirit if one is down with fever or congestion, has travelled the world and returned to Madras as millagutawny or mulligatawny soup.

The dish, made famous by the British, is now offered in five-star hotels and elite clubs. And chefs say it is a favourite among their customers.

Watch | How to make Milagutawny soup
| Video Credit: R. Ravindran

Sujan Mukherjee, executive chef at Taj Coromandel hotel, says the dish they prepare includes green apples. “To give tanginess, we offer lemon rings and some rice on the side,” he says.

At Southern Spice restaurant of the Taj Coromandel in Nungambakkam, it comes with rice on a dainty dish and is poured in front of your eyes in a soup bowl, if you are their VIP customer.

The dish was discovered by the British in Madras and they popularised it because they believed it helped relieve cold and fever. In the books written about Indian culinary delicacies, the dish and the various versions of the dish have been elaborately described — in vegetarian homes all that goes into the dish are at most ginger, garlic and onions along with a generous sprinkling of curry leaves. The British though added animal stock and slivers of meat.

Mr. Mukherjee reasons that since the British are used to thick soups, unlike the rasam, and they decided to add agents to thicken it. And so, Taj’s version includes potatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies, red capsicum, and coconut milk. According to chef Kannan Thanikachalam, the addition of coconut milk is an idea borrowed from Sri Lanka.

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