Curled up with a warm bowl of rice with lentils seasoned with spices encapsulates the essence of India’s most loved dish — khichdi. Though the pages of the country’s culinary history have been splattered with variations of the dish, they bear traces of feelings of nostalgia and comfort that the dish evokes as soon as the first spoon coats your palate.
Khichdi boasts of being one of the oldest dishes to be cooked in the country, as history says even French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier remarked on his trips to India in the 1600s that this ‘peasant’s evening meal’ prepared with green lentils, rice and ghee was very common in the subcontinent.
The name of the dish itself stems from the Sanskrit word ‘khiccha’, which translates to a dish prepared with rice and legumes.
What is fascinating is that this meal has still managed to retain a prime spot on the dinner tables of today.
Chefs over the world and in India too still trace their steps back to the dish when in doubt, as it is a dish that can never go out of style.
Two such food consultants, Ratika Bhargava and Riccha Khetan from Jaipur, who are the brains behind CauldronSisterss — a culinary venture that helps budding restaurant owners set up their space, curate menus, catering, etc — have come up with a book that is dedicated to the humble khichdi and its many variants that are abundant in India.
While they started the venture CauldronSisterss in 2015 as a way of sharing their knowledge of food with a larger audience, the idea was always to dare to do something different.
Discovering India’s khichdi and its magic
Elaborating on this, Ratika says, “We ventured into jar cakes, saboo dana salad, peri peri popcorns, peanut fudge instead of the usual til gud chikki.” She adds that they also held a bread-making course in Jaipur and taught 250 people how to master the art.
“There is a simple thought behind the venture and everything we do — cooking is not rocket science. Everyone can do it.”
However, despite having a successful culinary venture, the sisters had never thought of coming up with a book, as they felt recipes were available online. But when Ratika’s guruji from school once suggested that more people would benefit from knowing about khichdi in all its glory, she thought it was a good idea to pen their recipes, and thoughts on the dish.
And thus, the sister duo came up with their book Khichdi: Simple, Soulful & Soothing in 2021.
As Riccha says, “People think of khichdi as beemaro ka khaana (food for the sick), but in our family, it was a very regular dish.” She goes on to add that while many Indians applaud pot meals that are available abroad, we have one right here that often does not get the credit it deserves.
Thus, the book is a way of spreading the love for khichdi through recipes from all across India and has sold 15 copies, each priced at Rs 941. The sister duo has pledged to give away all proceeds from the sales to charity and says they have donated Rs 21,000 to date.
Khichdi from across India
As for how they sourced the recipes, Ratika says some were done through collaborations with chefs across India who shared their knowledge, while others were their own creations.
“Each and every recipe in the book is tried and tested by us,” assures Ratika, adding that there was a day they cooked 31 khichdis in total. The book also comprises some fusion recipes such as oats khichdi, paneer butter masala khichdi.
Ratika says the Balaee khichdi of Himachal Pradesh is one of her favourites. “It has rice, red gram, curd, onion, garlic and is actually a very close resemblance to yakhni pulao.”
While numerous khichdis from across India feature in the book, here are five that stand out.
Kharzi from Arunachal Pradesh
The spicy recipe is a staple food of Arunachal Pradesh and has oodles of cheese, a welcome addition to the dish. In traditional homes, the rice is cooked in bamboo over hot coal to give it the right flavour. What makes the dish hit the right notes is that it is prepared by grinding the rice with red chillis and fermented cheese.
Gud Nariyal Khichdi from Goa
What sets this dish apart is that it is cooked with jaggery and coconut and a special Goan rice ukdo tandool. There is a religious event called ‘Manni Punov’ during the full moon, where Goddess Jagdamba is worshipped with an offering of liquor, fish, eggs, and this khichdi.
Mongkhasar (Mong Khasar) from Kashmir
As you may have guessed, yoghurt and the traditional Kashmiri red chillies are the star ingredients of the mongkhasar. The dish also features whole garam masalas and spices that give it its authentic flavour. Rice is the staple food in Kashmir and spicing it up to make the mongkhasar is fascinating.
Jagannath Puri Khichdi Prasad from Odisha
Odisha is famous for the Mahaprasad wherein a total of 56 holy dishes are cooked every day and offered to Lord Jagannath. Earthen pots are used for cooking and it is believed that the Goddess Mahalaxmi herself is doing the cooking in disguise. The Sankhudi Mahaprasad includes rice mixed with lentils into a porridge consistency.
Bhoger Khichuri from West Bengal
Prepared from Gobindobhog rice which is short-grained, white, aromatic and sticky rice, the bhoger khichuri of West Bengal is a favourite not just in the state but throughout India. If the variety of rice is not available, it can be substituted with basmati. The dish also features moong dal, cauliflowers and carrots and is a favourite during pujo.
While these are traditional khichdis from across India, here is a fun fusion recipe by the CauldronSisterss.
Tandoori Paneer Khichdi (Serves 4)
- 1 cup rice (soaked for 30mins)
- 1/2 cup kala chana (soaked overnight)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic finely chopped
- 1 cup tomato purée
- 1 tbsp tandoori masala
- 2 tbsp cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup paneer chopped into small pieces
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Salt to taste
Step 1: Take a pressure cooker and heat ghee in it.
Step 2: Add onion, garlic, chillies and sauté.
Step 3: Sauté soaked rice and chana.
Step 4: Add four cups of water and salt.
Step 5: Cool till four whistles.
Step 6: In another pan, take butter and tandoori masala.
Step 7: Sauté till the raw smell goes and add tomato purée to it and sauté again till butter floats.
Step 8: Add paneer cubes and toast till paneer is crispy.
Step 9: Once the cooker is open, mix tomato into it.
Step 10: Blend and heat. Serve with loads of butter.
Purchase Khichdi: Simple, Soulful & Soothing here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
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