Recipe: Shorba - Spicy Indian Soup

It may have originated in the Middle East, but once the Persians brought it to India, it was quickly adapted to the Indian palate in spicy, indubitable style…

The shorba was so named by the Persians with reference to the salted water that the meat was boiled in. Brought to India with the Mughals, the dish soon acquired Indian overtones in terms of meats, vegetables and spices. Served as one of the courses of a meal, or simply as standalone comfort food with a side of bread or naan – the shorba is a tangy, tomato-based dish for chilly evenings. It warms you up from the inside out and the spiciness drives any lingering blues away!

To make the shorba, you will need:


1 tsp oil

1 medium shallot or onion, chopped fine

1 black cardamom pod (badi elaichi)

2-4 green cardamom pods (choti elaichi)

1 stick of cinnamon (dalchini)

½ tsp fennel seeds (saunf)

1 tsp peppercorns (sabut kali mirch)

2-4 green chilies, split and stalks removed (use as per your need for heat)

1 tbsp gram flour (besan) or whole wheat flour (Atta)

½ cup chopped coriander (you can use parsley as a substitute) with a little kept aside for garnishing, too

6-7 red, juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped

5 cups water

Salt, to taste

A sprinkling of nutmeg (jaiphal)

Your choice of cooked vegetables, meats or pasta (optional)

Cooking equipment:

A pressure or steam cooker (else use a slow cooker)

A blender

A soup strainer

Steps to make the shorba:

1.Heat oil (olive oil or even butter would work well) in the cooker and add in the chopped onion. Sauté on low heat till the onion turns translucent.

2.Add in the whole spices – cardamoms, cinnamon, fennel and peppercorns -- and sauté till they crackle and turn fragrant.

3.Drop in the green chilies and add in the flour – stir well to ensure an evenly roasted roux.

4.Keep aside a little coriander for garnishing and add in the rest. Drop the tomatoes in as well and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

5.Pour in the water and add salt according to your taste. Stir everything well and put on the lid. If using a pressure cooker, let the whistle sound 5 times before you turn off the heat. Remember to let all the steam gradually dissipate before you open the lid – nudge the pressure regulator on the top to check for steam. If using a slow cooker, let the soup cook on low for 30-40 minutes or till the tomatoes have gone sludgy.

6.Let the soup cool a bit and then blend it into a smooth puree. In case you see tomato skin specks in the soup, you can choose to strain it before serving. Usually, though, if the soup has been cooked well, this should not be a problem.

7.Reheat and serve, garnished with coriander and a dash of nutmeg, along with any other favorites of yours. You can also choose to add in pre-cooked vegetables, meats or even pasta to the shorba at this point to make it heartier and more filling. Personally, I love the spicy shorba with some herbed croutons – the ultimate warm and spicy comfort with a crunch.

We hope this Indian shorba gives you a bowlful of comfort on a cold, rainy night – do write in with any suggestions in the comment sections below.