This is an adaptation of my grandmother Ada de la Harpe’s recipe. The main difference is that I don’t strain the soup before serving; I prefer to have the chunky vegetables as part of the dish. The coconut milk adds a creaminess to the soup and the Maldive fish – if used – has a subtle umaminess. I finished mine off with a drizzle of chili oil.

Dhal Soup

Adapted from my grandmother Ada de la Harpe's cookery book this soup had body and flavour to spare - and it's simple to make
Course Soup
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Keyword dhal, soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 1/2 cup red dhal
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tomato
  • 10 cm celery stalk
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small parsnip
  • 1 bunch nettles Optional
  • 1 eating spoon coriander seed
  • 1 eating spoon Maldive fish Optional - you could also use dry prawns
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 stick cinnamon A 5 cm stick
  • 2 tablespoons thin coconut milk Thinned coconut cream works well
  • 2 shallot onions You can substitute a small brown onion


  • Chop the carrot and parsnip into small pieces
  • Chop the celery into thin pieces crosswise
  • Chop the tomato roughly
  • Strip the leaves off the stalks of nettles if using them
  • Peel and slice thin the shallots or brown onion
  • Grind coriander seeds roughly
  • Pound/grind the Maldive fish very fine if using
  • Add everything to the saucepan with the dhal except the shallot/onion
  • Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan
  • Let all of this boil for 15 minutes. The water should reduce down by about a third,if not boil a little longer
  • Add the coconut milk to the soup
  • Serve with a sprinkle of shallot/onion each on each plat of soup


Ada de la Harpe's dhal soup