When Davinder Singh was growing up in Delhi, India, his mother often made daal, a lentil soup that is a staple in the country. Today, Singh uses his mother’s original recipe to make the soup at Lilit Café, the Bethesda bistro he has operated since 2007. Singh makes a large pot of the mustard-yellow soup every day by boiling lentils with turmeric, ginger, garlic, tomato, mustard seeds, and cumin and coriander powder. Daal is one of the most popular items on Lilit Café’s extensive menu, Singh says. It’s a close cousin to mulligatawny soup, which is served in many Indian restaurants. The main difference, Singh says, is that mulligatawny is made with chicken stock, while the style of daal he makes is vegan. Singh says he will share his daal recipe with anyone who asks for it. “People come in and say, ‘I made that soup from your recipe, but it doesn’t taste as good as yours,’ ” he says.
Lilit Café, 7921 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, 301-654-5454, lilitcafe.com
Butternut squash soup has been on the fall and winter menu at Lia’s in Friendship Heights for a while—first unadorned and then made with apples. But it wasn’t until 2019, when Culinary Director Steve Mannino came up with the idea of roasting squash, apples and parsnips separately before combining them, that the soup—now called Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash—became a standout. Roasting the vegetables alone “helps develop a better depth of flavor and truly brings out the
caramelization of the individual items and helps make the soup more unique,” Mannino says. The roasted apples—and a touch of maple syrup—make the soup a tad sweeter than most other butternut squash soups. A pomegranate relish provides another zing of sweetness and a crunchy contrast to the smoothness of the soup.
Lia’s, 4435 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase, 240-223-5427, liasrestaurant.com
Gringos & Mariachis
Thick with shredded chicken, avocado, Mexican rice and queso fresco, the chicken and avocado soup at Gringos & Mariachis is a meal in itself. Head chef Miguel Linares says the soup is from his mother’s recipe and was popular among his siblings in their hometown of Puebla, Mexico, “when one of us was not feeling well, or especially on a chilly winter night.” As a teenager living in Mexico City, Linares says, he ate the soup three or four times a week. “Still to this day, every time I eat it, it always brings back fond childhood memories of being with my family,” he says. The soup has been on the Gringos menu since the opening of the Bethesda location in 2014 and the Park Potomac restaurant in 2017. Linares says he hasn’t made any alterations to the recipe. “I think my mom would be a little upset if I ever changed it,” he says.
Gringos & Mariachis, 4928 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 240-800-4266; 12435 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, 301-339-8855; gringosandmariachis.com