Recipe Link:

This vegan soup from Desmond Tan’s Burma Superstar in San Francisco features a broth that’s seasoned with black mustard seeds, cumin, and turmeric.

Desmond Tan, Food & Wine

I originally saw this recipe a year ago, in the January 2019 Food & Wine issue. My family has a Christmas tradition where we do a “soup buffet” for dinner, so as soon as I saw the recipe I knew I wanted to make it for next Christmas. Sure enough, I made this soup last month for December 2019. Was it delicious? Yes! Do I recommend it? Yes! Was it tedious? Yes! It took me much closer to four hours than 45 minutes (the listed total time) to make this soup, but I suppose I am just a beginner.

A page from my Food & Wine magazine

Overall Taste

Just a heads up, the soup is VERY spicy. So, if you prefer milder dishes, I can’t recommend it; however, if you enjoy spicy foods, I believe you will adore this soup because it is very flavorful. I think a lot of the flavor came from the crushed red pepper, jalapeno, and tamarind water I used.


As I mentioned above, it took me about four hours to make this soup. Making the soup itself was easy; however, it was the preparation of the ingredients that took up so much time and work. For example, I made homemade toasted chickpea flour, which meant I had to toast canned chickpeas, crush them, and grind them repeatedly, over and over again, until I had a fluffy flour. I highly recommend preparing the following ingredients ahead of time: chickpea flour, chopped onion, chopped garlic, and tamarind water. If I had already prepared those items, it probably would have only taken me 45 minutes-1 hour.

Changes I Made

  • Cumin seeds: I didn’t have seeds, so I used powder instead. Quick tip: 1 tsp seeds=1 1/4 tsp powder
  • Black mustard seeds: I didn’t specifically have black mustard seeds, but I used what I had, which seemed to work fine
  • Veggie oil: I used canola oil
  • 3-4 small dried chiles: I used 1 tsp of crushed red pepper
  • Tamarind water: I followed the tip in the recipe and used lime juice instead of buying expensive tamarind pulp. Quick tip: alternative tamarind water=1 tbsp lime juice + 1/2 cup water
  • Yellow lentils: I used the cheapest lentils at the store
  • Garnish: I skipped the garnish, so my soup didn’t have any “crunch” to it. I would also love to try using this soup as a base for prepared noodles.
  • Garam masala: I used tikka masala instead because it was the closest seasoning I had to it on-hand


Making the chickpea flour


Making the cumin mixture

Other Steps

The Final Dish

If you’ve made this dish before, I’d love to hear what you though about it!


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