Khichdi is one bowl that will unite us all
On the occasion of Makar Sankranti or Khichdi in Northern India, we look at this humble dish that is fit for a king’s table
If you were to think of food item that is the very definition of comfort in a bowl, you would immediately think of a warming bowl of khichdi. Whether you are feeling under the weather, far away from home and missing your loved ones or just want something quick to calm the hunger pangs, this thick yet soupy concoction is every Indian’s go-to.
With a rich history that can be traced back to ancient India, including the Mughals, khichdi always hits the spot. Like many dishes, each state, culture and community in India has their own way of relishing this mishmash of rice and lentils, simply on its own or with a variety of other mix-ins from vegetables, meats, seafood and spices.
As we celebrate the kite flying festival of Makar Sankranti or Khichdi (as it is called in Northern India) today, we look at the various types of khichdis that are consumed across the country.
Gehun ki Bikaneri khichdi, Rajasthan
Like every dish Maharaj Bhawar Singh, Corporate Chef – Khandani Rajdhani, says, “A fragrant potpourri of rice, lentils and spices, this mellow dish can be found in the kitchens, in various avatars. In Rajasthan as winter approaches, khichdi is made as almost a staple in the state. Spoiling one for choice are a range of khichdi’s like gehun ki Bikaneri khichdi, which is eaten with jeera curd or Rajwadi khichdito that is paired with kadhi.”
Bhoger khichdi, West Bengal
Khichuri is eaten on festive occasions so it is rich and loaded with ghee,” explains Anindya Sundar Basu, food influencer. Bengali khichdi is made with gobindobhog rice and roasted moong dal. Bayleaf, dried red chillies and cumin seeds are the only spiced used along with grated ginger. Fried seasonal vegetable along with thinly sliced coconut and a little sugar is added to the dish. To top it off, Bengali garam masala is sprinkled. Khichuri is usually served with labra, which is a stir fry of several seasonal vegetables or tomato chutney. “A medley of fritters and fries, called panch rokomer bhaja, and chhanar dalna is served with along with it as well,” he says.
Moong kashar, Kashmir
In Kashmir, the khichdi is known as moong kashar or mong khyachur. Chef Sarfaraz Ahmed, Head Chef, Trèsind Mumbai, “It is made with moong dal or whole green gram that along with masoor dal. What makes it different is the use of whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf along with whole red chillies. It is usually served along with yoghurt or a radish chutney.”
Kadhi khichdi, Gujarat
Khichdi in Gujarat is made with either toor or moong dal and spices like mustard seeds, peppercorns, hing, haldi and cloves. Chef Kuldip Singh, Executive Chef, Renest Gandhidham says, “Different variations of khichdi is consumed in every part of India and Gujarat has its own type as well. They can be savoury or sweet like sadi khichdi or vaghareli khichdi. In Gujarat, the most common way to khichdi is paired with yogurt based side dishes chaas or kadhi.” This dahi based gravy gets its sweetness from jaggery and spice from the chillies.”
Bissi belle baath, Bangalore
Khichdi in Karnataka is known as bissi belle baath and can be loosely translated to “Hot lentil rice dish”. It is made with toor dal, rice, turmeric and ghee. A special spice blend or pudi is added to the dish along with tamarind and jaggery. Chef Murtaza Saifee, Executive Chef, Hotel Royal Orchid, Bangalore, says, “This dish originated in the royal kitchens of Mysore Palace and was made using a mix of ingredients that were indigenous to the country and newer ingredients that were imported into India. It took around a hundred years for the dish to come out of the palace kitchen and another two hundred years to spread across the state.”
Masala khichdi, Maharashtra
To celebrate the festival of Makar Sankranti, every Maharashtrian household makes khichdi that is spiced with ghoda masala and coconut, says Chef Vinayak Patil, Corporate Chef, Shiv Sagar Group. A mix of rice, dal and a variety of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and green chilli, green beans, carrots, cauliflower and peas are added to a pressure cooker for a quick meal that is sure to satisfy anybody’s hunger. Spices like cumin and mustard seeds, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and seasame seeds are added to this warming dish. Patil suggests serving the khichdi warm with a side of roasted papad or mango pickle.
Khichuri , Bihari
“Made specially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on Makar Sankranti, khichuri is a Saturday ritual in every family,” shares Gaurav Verma, Co-founder, Saundha. This staple meal is made using Arwa rice and a mix of pulses and slow cooked to a mushy texture. It is tempered with ghee and spices. To make it a wholesome meal, shallow fried seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, green peas and potatoes are added. “The veggies are fried in mustard oil as it lends a delicious pungency to them,” share Verma, adding, “It is eaten with aloo chokha (mashed potatoes), tomato chutney, kathal (jackfruit)/mango pickle and papad, every serving is topped with dollops of ghee.”
Pongal, Tamil Nadu
Pongal, which is a type of khichdi from Tamil Nadu is made on the festival of the same name and is eaten in for breakfast. Chef Sarvanan Chidambaram, Regional Chef, Kamats Legacy, Mumbai explains “During the four-day celebration, when people visit their family and friends’ houses, Ven Pongal or khara pongal, which is a slow cooked dish made with rice and lentils, is made. Spices such as peppercorns, cumin are added to it along with ghee and the dish is tempered with curry leaves. This khichdi eaten with curd, papadam and pachidi.” There is also a sweet Pongal known as Chakkara pongal that is also made with moong dal, jaggery or sugar along with cardamom and dry fruits.
Kali dal ki khichdi
Inputs by Kusha Mathur, Senior Sous Chef, Welcomhotel Sheraton New Delhi
•1 Cup Rice
•3/4 Cup Whole Black Gram Urad Dal
•1 Tsp Ginger, Finely Chopped
•2 Green Chilies, Finely Chopped
•2 Dry Red Chilies Whole
•1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
•1/4 Tsp Asafoetida
•Salt to Taste
•2 Tbsp Desi Ghee
•2 Cups Water
•For making the kali dal ki khichdi, wash and soak the dal in water overnight for a minimum of 8 hours. Drain the dal the next day and keep aside.
•Wash and soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
•Now, heat the ghee in a pressure cooker.
•Add cumin seeds, asafoetida, red chilies, green chilies and ginger. Saute for a few seconds.
•Add the soaked rice, soaked dal and sprinkle in salt and mix well. Saute well.
•Pour in water and cover with lid. Cook in pressure cooker for 4 whistles.
•Allow the cooker to cool and then transfer the kali dal ki khichdi into serving platter and serve hot.