“Soups” are an interesting concept in South India. Soups do exist, although I suspect they are a relatively modern concept influenced by the British occupation. Contrasted with this are many soupy South Indian dishes like rasam, sambar, kuzhambu, kootu, dals etc that are not soups as we understand them, yet appear to be soup-like to non-Indian eyes.
Recently in India I was eating at a large canteen. The food was great. One counter in the canteen offered us small bowls of liquid. I asked Rasam? No, he said, Soup. I thought I did not understand his accent. Rasam? I asked again. Soup he said again. Ok, soup.
They were generally thin stocks without vegetables, but perhaps with a little body from undetectable lentils. Not as thin as a broth, not as thick as, say, a creamed soup. Highly delicious, and we often had 2 or 3 small bowls of it at the end of our meal, as we sat outside reviewing the day’s activities. In the cool of the evening, after a hot hot day, it was delicious.
These memories came back when I came across a Dal Soup as I was browsing what turned out to be an Anglacised Indian cookbook today. I wanted to make something similar, but I laughed when I saw that the recipe used yellow split peas. Oh boy, there is no real equivalant in India. It equates either to mung dal or toor dal (both mushy when cooked) or channa dal (holds its shape when cooked).
So I adopted and adapted this recipe to suit my needs. It is rather delicious.
Simple Indian Dal Soup
Cuisine: South Indian
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cooking Time: 90 mins
Serves: 3 – 4
100g toor dal (Indian red gram dal) or mung dal
1 litre water
2 pipali (Long Pepper) – optional
8 whole cloves
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
salt to taste
Cook the dal with the peppercorns and cloves, and pipali if using, in the water until mushy. Mung dal is relatively quick, under 30 mins, but toor dal might take as long as 60 – 90 mins. Add more water as needed during this time.
Add the turmeric and salt and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add a squeeze of lime juice. Remove from the soup as many of the pepper corns and cloves as you can, but don’t be too fussy.
You can blend the soup with an immersion blender for a smoother soup, or leave as it is for a little texture.
Check the seasoning.
Garnish with chopped green coriander.
recipe notes and alternatives
If you have some Indian Stock in the fridge, you could use that instead of water.