Burmese Samusa Soup

Active Time: N/ATotal Time45 MIN
Yield: Serves : 4

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. Fresh cabbage, herbs, and chiles top each ample bowl, contrasting tender lentils and potatoes with a pleasing crunch. It’s substantial enough to be a meal by itself, but try it topped with wedges of leftover samosas (or samusas, as they’re called in Burma) and falafel, as they do at the restaurant. Provisioning for this vegan soup is worth the extra effort: Tamarind paste adds tanginess (though you can use lime juice in a pinch); chickpea flour adds creamy texture and thickens the broth; and a high-quality vegetable stock like Zoup! provides rich flavor. You’ll find all three at amazon.com. 


  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 small chiles de árbol or other dried chiles
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic (about 12 garlic cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup toasted chickpea flour (besan)
  • 2 quart vegetable broth (such as Zoup!)
  • 1/2  cup tamarind water (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup dried yellow lentils
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red Thai chiles or 1/2 jalapeño, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Chopped fresh mint, thinly sliced cabbage, fresh cilantro leaves, thinly sliced red Thai chiles, and lime wedges, for serving

How to Make It

Step 1    

Toast cumin and mustard seeds in a large, dry saucepan over medium, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and grind into a coarse powder. Add oil to pan, and heat over medium-high. Add cumin mixture, chiles de árbol, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 25 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt, paprika, and turmeric.

Step 2    

Whisk together 1/2 cup water and chickpea flour in a small bowl until well combined. Add chickpea flour mixture, broth, tamarind water, lentils, and potato to pan. Stir to combine, and bring a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until lentils and potato are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in Thai chiles and garam masala.

Step 3    

Garnish servings with chopped mint, sliced cabbage, cilantro leaves, sliced Thai chiles, and lime wedges.


To make tamarind water, combine 3/4 cup boiling water and 1 heaping tablespoon tamarind pulp. Let steep 1 minute. Mash with a fork, and let steep 3 minutes. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.

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