Recipe: Tadka Soup With Crab From the Kitchen Window column

Tadka Soup With Crab

Traditional lentil soups in India are made with lentils, onions, tomatoes and a large array of spices, then topped with a tadka of another array of spices. While they are rewarding in taste, they are too time-consuming for weeknights because most lentils take a long time to cook. When I discovered cannellini beans, I knew I had a solution. When I first served this soup to my mom, she tasted it begrudgingly — cannellini beans are not something she is familiar with. But, she had to admit, it was love at first sip, especially since the flaming red of the deghi mirch (a red chili that provides color but not heat) and the smell of the clarified butter made it taste like home. This soup is from my book Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Olga Berman for NPR
Tadka Soup With Crab
Olga Berman for NPR

Makes 4 small or 2 large servings


2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and ground white pepper

1/4 pound cooked lump crab, picked over


1 tablespoon ghee* or vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon deghi mirch* or paprika

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the soup, heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until transparent and soft. Add the beans and cook another 5 minutes. Add the broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Working in batches if necessary, puree in a blender until smooth. (If you prefer a really smooth soup, pass the puree through a strainer.) Return the soup to a clean saucepan and stir in the heavy cream. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary with salt and pepper. Reheat the soup to a gentle simmer.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top each with an equal amount of crab.

To make the tadka, in a small pan, heat the ghee on medium heat until quite hot. Add the deghi mirch and red pepper flakes. Remove from heat immediately and drizzle over the soup. Serve immediately.

*Available at Indian markets