purée mongole

Purée Mongole, also called Cream Mongole, is basically a split pea and tomato soup of unknown origin that dates back to the at least the late 1800’s. It was popular during the period between the 1920s—1940s, and I learned of it at a French Restaurant in Los Angeles in about 1958. I was dining with a number of my new colleagues from JPL before attending professional meeting at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium (both are now gone). Seeing it on the menu and never having heard of it before, I asked “What is Purée Mongole?” The sharp witted Dick Epstein quickly replied “A Chinese virgin.” Everyone laughed except me. I was a little embarrassed at my naïveté.*

During its heyday, recipes of it waxed prolific, from using scratch ingredients to using blended canned soups. It has declined in popularity since then, and is rarely found in restaurants. It is said that it was J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite meal.

My recipe tries to recapture that first taste I had of it and the nostalgia of that initial occasion.

  • 1 lb dry split peas, washed and picked over
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 tsp ham base (or chicken bouillon cubes)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cups crushed canned tomatoes
  • 2 diced or grated carrots
  • 1 small turnip, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tsp <sugar> (or sugar, if you must)
  • 1 tsp <salt>
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground thyme
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • sour cream (garnish)

Simmer the split peas in the water and ham base for one hour, or until soft enough to mash. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 30 minutes, or, again, until carrots, celery, turnip, and tomatoes are soft. Take off the heat, let cool slightly, and blend using a stick blender until smooth. Reheat and serve with a dollop of sour cream as garnish, lightly swizzled.