Anyway, so not being able to get it anytime I wanted it presented a problem! I thought I'd just have to learn to make it and that it how Mulligatawny got on my new things to do list.
Normally I am not intimidated by making a new dish, especially a soup. And I even have experience making Indian dishes - I have a couple really good ones in my repertoire. But as soon as I googled searched for a recipe I realized that this dish was going to take me places I have never ventured before.
First of all Mulligatawny means "hot pepper water" and was invented for the British who occupied India because their palates were unaccustomed to the thick, stew like dishes that are common in India. So my wonder soup isn't even an authentic traditional Indian dish! Kind of like Tex-Mex. The second thing I discovered was that just like stew and chili are generic labels for any number of different versions, Mulligatawny can be make many, many, many different ways.
So the hunt was on to find one that resembled the soup I had at the Bistro and one that I thought sounded good. I narrowed it down to three. One with a really long ingredients list. And two others that seemed more basic. This being an adventure for the 39 new things list, I chose the hardest one with the longest list of ingredients.
Now there are several things on the ingredient list that I have never purchased before and some I haven't even heard of before. I had to ask my friend at work who hails for Indian heritage for some input and advice. And in fact when I couldn't find cardamom pods in town, she got some from her mom, at which point I heavily hinted, okay I out-right asked if her mom could give me a cooking lesson and we make it together. Years ago I had a lovely Indian woman teach me the first few dishes I mentioned above - so I thought to make this dish different (ie new experience) I really needed to do it on my own.
I set out to amass the ingredients, and then put off making the soup.... for months actually. Just too busy to stop everything to focus on a new soup. And then this weekend I became determined to make it! I have learned so many things I didn't know before and I still have many questions. Thank goodness we live in the age of google!
Did you know that there is such an ingredient as a curry leaf? Not curry the spice, but curry the leaf? I didn't. I found them dried at Keewatin Place. (the best place in Kenora to find any kind of ethnic food ingredients) Once I found them I thought -"Oh no. My whole life I thought curry (the spice) was a blend of a bunch of different spices and now I discover it comes from a leaf?" But actually the two aren't related at all. (see link for more info)
I laid out all the ingredients and much to my chagrin I realize that I went to all the effort to buy more cardamom pods, the curry leaf and fresh ginger - only to NOT buy a fresh lemon? and not buy fresh cilantro (we always have some around, my husband is of Mexican heritage.) and then of course I am out of ground coriander. (another pantry standard for us) Guess I can't make anything new without a call and assistance from Mum and hand delivered to my house by Dad! I'm always so glad they are there!
These are almost all the ingredients - missing from the photo is the chicken stock, made from scratch the day before.
So I started it out with my ingredients laid out, my recipe in hand and my trusty side kick/quick clean up crew at my side. She is always at my side, or under my feet, or just behind me when I'm cooking. She either adores me or is just an opportunist waiting to catch "treats" as they fall to the floor. She passed on a chunk of fresh ginger though. : )
It took me a long time. I had many questions along the way - did I buy the right kind of tamarind? how does one "bruise" a cardamom pod? and does coconut milk always come out this thick? So after a few google interruptions and "little chefs" volunteering when they were loving the smell and then abandoning to the other room when the sweating spices got too strong, and a long time later. There was a soup produced. It tastes and looks nothing like the soup at the Bistro, but it is good. Now that I have made one version I will try the others. ... I wonder if the Bistro would give me their recipe? ; )
If you are curious the link below is the recipe I used this time. I probably won't make it exactly this way again and perhaps I will do what I do with other soups - know that basics that go well together and then make it up as I go.