If there is one dish that unanimously comforts the hunger pangs of our country and is ranked as the comfort food for the soul—it has to be the modest Khichdi. This one-pot meal of rice and lentils—cooked together with a fistful of spices and tempered in ghee—slices through our diverse food cultures and unites both the foodies and the food snobs alike. The humble khichdi which has now been bestowed with the title of national dish of India takes on diverse finger licking avatars across the country—each variety hits the spot equally with its balance of taste and nutrition. Tell us how many varieties of khichdi you have heard of before.
The Khichuri of West Bengal is an elaborate meal served with an array of vegetables, either deep fried or made into fritters, or a vegetable curry called lyabra and fried Hilsa fish. The spicy Kathiyawadi khichdi called Ram Khichdi is loaded with vegetables like cauliflower, brinjal, peas and beans, while the Sola Khichdi from Surat is a delicious combination of rice, lentils like masoor, white urad, toovar and minced meat. Maharashtrians pride over their valachi khichdi garnished with roasted groundnuts, cashew and grated coconut. Another unique khichdi is the Balaee from the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh. Made with rice and Bengal gram, it is cooked in buttermilk, which gives it its distinct tang. Unlike the slightly wet or runny khichdis savoured around the country, the typical khichdi made in Parsi homes is a dry dish of rice and masoor or toovar dal. It is served with sweet and sour gravies like prawn or fish patia. Khichda, a dish popular among the Bohra Muslim community, is another preparation that bears a stark resemblance to Khichdi.
The origins of Khichdi
The word khichdi has its origin in Sanskrit-Khichcha meaning mixed or mixture. There are early mentions of this dish as 'Krusaranna' in Vedic literature. Rice was teamed up with a variety of ingredients like milk, curd and even sesame (til). Khichdi made headlines even before 918 kg of it was cooked in a Delhi mega food show in a Guinness World record attempt in 2017. You can find a mention of this classic one-pot dish even in The Mahabharat when Draupadi is said to have fed it to the Pandavas during their exile. During the 1600s, French traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier came to India six times and noticed khichdi being prepared with green lentils, rice and clarified butter (ghee), and referred to it as a peasant’s evening meal. Khichdi even entered the royal Mughal kitchens and was known to be a favourite of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who particularly relished the Alamgiri Khichdi, which had an Anglo-Indian twist with fish and eggs. The non-vegetarian loving British added their own twist with ingredients such as poached smoked fish and boiled eggs to make it more enjoyable and called it Kedgeree.
The goodness of rice and dal
The understated and easy to make Khichdi is a complete nutritious meal in itself. Even the Charak Samhita sings paeans to the khichdi for its curative abilities. “In Ayurveda, Khichdi is usually recommended as pathya or the diet regime after one undergoes therapies or medication since it helps in digestion. The right combination of carbohydrates, protein and digestive fibres, it is considered to be a wholesome dish which balances the tridoshas and is hence suitable for everyone. The drizzle of ghee on top of the khichdi helps line the intestine,” says Dr Hrishikesh Ashok, BAMS, MS (Ayurveda), Chief Ayurveda Consultant - Naad Wellness. At this Haryana-based wellness retreat, khichdi is prepared using equal portions of rice, green or yellow mung dal, a tablespoon of cow’s ghee, a little salt and turmeric.
The different avatars of Khichdi
Often dismissed as innocuous rice-and-lentil gruel, khichdi has now evolved as a playground for chefs to experiment and show their creative side. A reinvented version of khichdi served at Kiyan, Delhi is the Achari rajma khichdi, which is spiked with pickle and served with crisp homemade wadis or dumplings on top. The Bombay Canteen does a millet-based khichdi using ingredients such as kodo, proso and foxtail millet cooked with moong dal and spices. It’s served with accompaniments such as tomato chutney, roasted pumpkin bharta, onion pachadi, ragi papad, chutney chaas and is meant to be eaten like a Burmese khao suey, mixing and matching the various sides. Kolkata even has an eatery dedicated wholly to the khichdi and its classic accompaniments, aptly named Khichdi Khichri. “The idea was to step away from greasy junk, and serve nutritious, comfort food steeped in home-like flavours,” says co-founder Dolly Punjabi. The salad khichdi here is made with sprouts, while the Himachali khichdi is loaded with kidney beans and chickpeas. Staying with the healthy khichdis +91 in Juhu, Mumbai serves Broccoli Masala Khichdi. Risotto rice adds a bite while the broccoli florets and diced carrots add the desired crunchiness to this yummy twist. It is served with jowar papad and plain curd. Taking our love for popcorn to a new level, Ek Bar in Delhi, does a very unique khichdi called the Popcorn khichdi. Here rice is replaced with popcorn. Non-vegetarians will love the Khichdee saas served at SodaBottleOpenerWala, Mumbai and Delhi. This Parsi style khichdi is served with a helping of fish on top. The dish is a popular wedding meal preparation where the fish perched on the khichdi is cooked with sweet and sour sauce in true Parsi style.
Khichdi goes gourmet
Once a homey comfort food, khichdi is now a star main course staple in casual restaurants and fine dining outlets. Michelin-starred, Mumbai-born chef Vineet Bhatia has a fancy version of it, Rosemary Chicken Tikka, Chilli Pipette and Black Olive Khichdi, which takes seven-and-a-half hours to prepare. For the butter chicken lovers, there is a butter chicken khichdi (there is a veg variant in paneer) at Monkey Bar Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The spicy and creamy delicacy is served along with papad, cucumber salad, ghee and pickle. If you don’t mind some serious heat, then the Naga Chili Khichdi at Gymkhana 91 is a must-have. Made with steamed rice spiked with fiery Naga chilies this one balances the subtle taste of khichdi with one of the hottest chilies in the world.
At Kheer, Roseate House, chef Nishant does an Indian version of the risotto with Khumb Khichdi. Cooked with Indian rice, instead of Arborio and wild mushrooms, this one is served with truffles! There’s also the world’s most expensive Khichdi named ‘Birbal Ki Khichdi’ consisting of 100 Ingredients. Served at Tresind, a very popular restaurant in Dubai’s Nassima Royal Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, this Khichdi consists of 100 ingredients and is sold at AED 200!
Give your regular khichdi a miss and try out this khichdi recipe at home!
Naga Chili Khichdi at Gymkhana 91
Oil & Ghee: 2 tsp
Butter: 2 tsp
Garlic: 8 gram
Salt: 2 tsp
Onion: 8 gm
Boiled Dal: 80 gm
Steamed Rice: 100 gm
Coriander: 6 gram
Kashmiri chili: 1
1 Add oil and ghee in equal quantity in a hot pan
2 Saute garlic and add onion with Naga Chili. Fry till golden brown and keep it aside.
3 Add previously boiled dal and steamed rice and mix well
5 Cook on slow flame for 5-10 mins
6 Garnish it with pan fried garlic which is tossed in Naga Chili, freshly chopped coriander and Kashmiri chili
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