Silk Road Lentil Soup

Tenkei just told me he almost never takes second servings in the zendo during oryoki meals, but this time he did. Apparently he wasn’t the only one either. He often says how much he loves the flavours of Middle-Eastern cuisine. This soup reminds me of one they once served in an Mediterranean restaurant in Groningen, whose menu spans southern Spain, Greece, and Morocco. Here, the taste is probably more of a fusion between Middle-Eastern and Indian, with notes from the Silk Route. Not quite sure which way it’s leaning, but it was a perfect soup for this unseasonably cold spring sesshin. Brr.

The flavour improves with time. Make a few hours, or even the day before.

Red Lentil Soup
Red Lentil Soup

225 g (1 1/4 cups) red lentils
1¼ litre (5 cups) water
150 g (1 medium) onions
200 g (2 medium) carrots
2 medium cloves garlic
20 g (2 tablespoons) fresh ginger
A few sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mild paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
200 ml (¾ cups + 1 tablespoon) coconut milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 teaspoons wine vinegar
Dash of chilli or cayenne, to taste
Salt, to taste

  • Check the lentils for grit and stones, rinse several times until the water starts to become clear, then drain. Put in a soup pot and cover with the water. Let it soak for 20 minutes, or while preparing the following steps.
  • Peel and small-dice the onions.
  • Peel and dice the carrots.
  • Peel and mince the garlic.
  • Peel and mince the ginger.
  • Cut the fresh coriander into thin slivers.

  • In a stew pot on medium flame, heat up the olive oil and sauté the
    onions until caramelized.
  • Next, put the garlic and ginger with the onions, and stir fry until the garlic becomes aromatic. Then stir in the coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and bay leaves. Stir-fry for thirty seconds.
  • Put in the carrots and the lentils along with the water they soaked in. Gently bring to a boil, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.
  • When boiling, turn down the flame, cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Remember to stir the lentils from the bottom now and then to prevent sticking.
  • When the lentils are tender, stir in the coconut milk, tomato paste, and white wine vinegar. Return to a gentle simmer and cook for a further five minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and cayenne or ground chillies.
  • Serve with fresh coriander swirled through the soup.

2 thoughts on “Silk Road Lentil Soup

  1. One of my favorite meals at Kanzeon were the lentils. This looks alot like that recipe but if my memory serves me, the lentils then were not a soup per se and were green and served with rice.

    Is this that recipe?

    If not… how can I twist your arm for the other one?

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