First things first, what is khichuri? Khichuri, my dear friends, is the ultimate one-bowl meal. Made of rice, lentils and vegetables (optional), it is comfort, health, warmth and nostalgia in a bowl. You will find variations of this super healthy food as you cross over India.
In West Bengal, khichuri is often the first dish anyone learns to cook. A step I seemed to have missed completely. This was evident when maa1 was out of town and baba2 and I wanted to eat khichuri. And neither of us was sure how to make it. Horrors!
This ‘shameful’ situation was relayed to maa over the phone and she guided Baba in the khichuri-making process. Day saved. We had a yummy lunch of piping hot khichuri topped with ghee3 and a side of roasted fish. Khichuri can also be served with vegetable fritters, roast meat or fish, curries or omelettes. It is a staple during holy ceremonies as offerings to deities and preferred for community meals that follow the ceremony.
Yours truly made the decision to learn this super healthy food as guided by maa and pishi4. For the parents, khichuri making was more a trip down memory lane.
Khichuri was a must on poush sankranti5 which would be celebrated with picnics and visits to funfairs. “We would head to a farm of a clearing in the forest along with utensils and ingredients to make lunch. Everyone would pitch in and a huge batch of khichuri would be cooked as picnic lunch. The next day, all of us friends would troop in to the funfair for a fun-filled day,” baba reminisced.
Recipe origin: India
Time: 45 minutes (including prep)
Yellow moong dal – 1 cup
Rice – 1 cup
Water – 4 cups
Potato (cubed) – ½ cup
Cauliflower florets – ½ cup
Carrots (cubed) – ½ cup
Green peas – ½ cup
Tomato (chopped) – ½ cup
Green chilli (slit) – 2
Ginger – ½ teaspoon (grated or crushed)
Mustard oil – 3 tablespoons
Cumin – ½ teaspoon
Dried red chilli – 2
Bay leaves – 3
Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Sugar – to taste
Place the vessel on low flame and allow it to heat well. Lightly roast the lentil until they give out a mild fragrance and are light brown in colour. You need to keep a close eye on the lentil or they will be toasted instead of mildly roasted! Remove from the vessel, allow to cool, wash and set aside. Wash the rice and set aside.
In the same vessel, heat the mustard oil, sauté the potatoes, carrots and cauliflower and keep aside.
Add the cumin, bay leaves, dried red chilli and sauté till they crackle. Pour in the water and quickly cover to trap the fragrance. #tips&tricks
Once the water comes to a boil, add the rice and lentils, mix well.
Allow it to come to a boil again and then add all the vegetables and seasoning. Cook till the rice, lentils and vegetables are cooked well. Sprinkle some sugar, mix and the khichuri is ready to be served.
Notes: The yellow moong dal is also known as yellow dal or petite yellow lentils split or dehusked moong beans or tadka dal. These are dehusked and split versions of the green moong beans are among the most commonly used lentils in Indian kitchens.
Use an aluminium vessel or a thick-bottomed pan for this recipe. Thick bottom is the key word here. The vessel you choose needs to be big as the rice and lentil will expand as they cook and vegetables will jostle for space.
If mustard oil is too strong for your taste, replace with ghee or any other vegetable oil.
Adjust khichuri consistency with warm water. Adding cold water while cooking will dilute the taste.
Adding vegetables is optional. If you are not using the vegetables then reduce the water amount to 3 cups.
Sautéing the vegetables is not compulsory.
1 Maa – ‘mother’ in some Indian languages
2 Baba – ‘father’ in some Indian languages
3 Ghee –form of clarified butter; not vanaspati (vegetable ghee)
4 Pishi – Endearment for father’s sister in Bengali language
5 Poush sankranti – Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Poush Sankranti in West Bengal, named after the Bengali month in which it falls. It is the regional harvest festival
Photos: Vaibhav Tanna