This might not be one of the most popularly known Indian recipes. Most of you (and by that I mean non-Indians) probably have never heard of it. The Indians reading, of course, have- and probably have horrible stomach upset stories related to this dish.
So why am I sharing it today?
Because for the last three nights this is what are dinner has looked like. And whether or not there are bad experiences surrounding this dish, it is one of the most beloved comfort food cooked in Indian kitchens.
And I don’t know if its because of eating this at night or just a reduced appetite because of what happened on Thursday, I am feeling lighter and have lost 1 kilo in 2 days. Since Thursday I have actually lost 2 kgs! But I know once I am back to eating properly (which I am, as of today), those kilos lost will be gained again! But hopefully they will be gained in muscle and not fat.
Khichdi is something that was made in our household when either my brother or I got sick. More often than not it was the latter. I was a very sick child. No puns intended here. It was a given when my father went out of town on temporary duty (TD), that night I would have high fever that would run for two days. Luckily our neighbour was a doctor and he would get late night panic calls from my mother. Once I got so sick with a fever of 104 and completely delirious that I was unable to recognise my mother. My father had to be called back from his TD to tend to his very sick daughter (to clarify again-the physically sick, not the mental kinds). After numerous such cases we paid a visit to a renowned pediatrician in Delhi, he diagnosed that my resistance was low and put me on the ayurvedic Septilin– after that I kept much healthier.
There were still times that I would get food poisoning or upset stomach, especially after a round of gol gappas from the roadside vendor. That’s when my mom would make khichdi for me.
The word khichdi literally means hodgepodge or mishmash. Rice and lentil are cooked together to form a mushy light dish. That description might not make it sound inviting but it is a complete one-pot meal. The rice provides the carbohydrates, the lentils provide the protein, and if you add vegetables you get some vitamins and minerals and fiber. Topping it with some ghee (clarified butter) provides the right amount of fat and calories, which are as essential in your diet as any other food group.
Khichdi is one of the first solid food that babies are introduced to. Its fed to infants to introduce them to grown up food. And as mentioned before, it is the food given to the sick (physically sick, not mentally). The warmth and aroma of just-cooked khichdi helps in building up the appetite of somebody who has lost it because of illness.
While having it the other day, V mentioned that there are four friends of khichdi. I could guess three. Ghee. Pickle. Curd. For the third I was clueless. He finally had to tell me the fourth is papad (pappadum). For lots their is a fifth friend too- kadhi. But in our household the fifth never featured.
Whatever friends you choose make sure curd and pickle are among them.
The best part of Khichdi though is that it takes about 15 minutes to get cooked, especially if you have a pressure cooker. And if you make it the way I do, there is no chopping also involved and…and..just one utensil- only the pressure cooker gets spoiled. By the way I hate washing the pressure cooker. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we don’t eat dal on a daily basis. There are just so many components to wash and it will not go in the dishwasher. But, that’s besides the point here. The point here is you should definitely try this dish.
Besides Khichdi being perfect for times when you are ill, its also great for times when your stomach is fed up of eating heavy food on a daily basis. I generally make it when V and I have been on too much of an eating out spree (mostly after our Phoenix trips). Or when we have have been having back to back parties to attend where a lot of rich food has been served and eaten. It is a great detox food for the stomach. Light to digest. Since it is also very low in masalas, when compared to a standard curry or pulao, it makes it very easy on the taste buds and the tummy. I think it would be great after a hangover too!
There are many ways of preparing Khichdi. Some make it dry- the rice and dal separately stand out. Some on the wetter side. Some put vegetables.
I have tried this dish with an initial tempering of some whole spices (cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves and cardamom), and I have also eaten khichdi with vegetables in them. I have eaten the drier version of the khichdi. But this is the way I like it. Soupy and simple. No spices- just the flavor of cumin highlighting the whole dish. This way it is also the lightest on my stomach- perfect for times when my stomach needs a rest.
- 1-2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter (use oil if you want to make it vegan)
- 1½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ cup rice
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 cup yellow moong dal/split green beans (check this post- http://wp.me/p2yoo4-1vO in case you are confused as to how it should look like)
- about 4.5 cups water (use less in case you prefer a little drier khichdi)
- salt, to taste ( I add about 2-3 tsp of salt)
- a pinch asofaetida
- Wash the rice and lentils well. Drain and set aside.
- In a pressure cooker, heat some ghee. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and asofaetida. The cumin seeds should sizzle.
- Once the ghee is fragrant (you will be able to smell the cumin), add the drained rice and lentil. Fry it for a minute or two.
- Add in the turmeric, and mix for a few seconds.
- Add in the water and salt. Put the lid on let cook for two whistles on medium high. Once the second whistle blows, switch off the gas and let the pressure drop before removing the lid.
- Serve with khichdi's four friends- ghee, curd, pickle and papad.