Khichuri

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The very first time I invited Tony for dinner I had cooked Khichuri. Not a first date, but more importantly a first sit-down dinner at home.

‘Chi, chi’ said my mother when I had jokingly disclosed many years after. You don’t want to hear ‘chi chi’ from a Bengali. It is used to express utter disgust. ‘Barite Jamai ke deke khichuri khawali?” (You invited the son-in-law and fed him khichuri?

‘He wasn’t your jamai then, Ma, he was my boyfriend” (jamai = son-in-law)

“Chi, chi!”, I heard again.

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Khichuri is what we Bengalis call what the world calls Khichdi and the British calls Kichdee. There are as many variations of the recipe as there are names it is called by. The only constant being the rice and the lentil.  As well khichuri means mish-mash or hodgepodge in Bengali language and is often referred to when one is confused.

Khichuri is known to be a poor man’s food as well as an offering to the Gods during many festivals.  It has many variations of recipes, influenced by the cuisine of a given region. It is like a porridge, cooked using the staples at home:  mainly equal parts rice and dal (red or yellow lentil), with some spices and vegetables added. Simple and nutritious, khichuri is easily available, easily cooked and easily digested.  But mostly comforting and perfect for a rainy day, whether in Bengal or here in St. John’s – a foggy day, a snowy day, a homesick day … and it seemed to have been perfect for a dinner date.

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I honestly can’t remember the reason behind cooking khichuri that evening. Was it not supposed to be romantic? Somehow a plate of yellow gooey mush of rice and lentils just doesn’t match up to a candlelit dinner. Were there any candles, anyway? Was I testing him; was I sending him a message? It’s been over a decade, and we have been together ever since.

When asked Tony said, “Khichuri reminds me of you, Debjani”, I don’t know which way … but I know there is love in the mishmash of his interpretation.

This post is on request from a childhood friend, H, who I havent seen in over 20 years. She is the first person to cook from my blog and post pictures, which makes me so proud! H, and myself along with my Little girl Saira have two things in common: we love gazing at the moon and finishing a bowl of khichuri with ghee! I hope you get to cook and enjoy this H. I am so glad you made this special request!

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KHICHURI

Ingredients

  • Scented rice: 1 cup ( basmati/jasmine/Thai long grain scented, or any kind of fragrant rice )
  • Red Lentil: 1 cup
  • Green Peas: ¼ cup
  • Potatoes: 2 ( chunky cubed )
  • Cauliflower: medium size florets separated
  • Tomato: 1 medium sized diced
  • Onion: 1 finely sliced
  • Chili Powder: ½ tsp
  • Turmeric Powder: 1tsp
  • Cumin Seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander Powder: 1tsp
  • Dry Red Chilli: 1
  • Green Chilli: 1 (optional, slit in the middle half way)
  • Bay leaves:  1 or 2
  • Ginger Paste: 2tablespoons
  • Water (hot): 3cups + 1 cup
  • Sugar: ½ tsp
  • Veg Oil: 3 tbsp
  • Ghee:  2tbsp for garnish
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander Leaves: to garnish (optional)
  • Lime: wedged (optional)

Method

  • Add a pinch of salt to the cut potatoes and cauliflower then lightly fry them separately in 1 tbsp veg oil, about 3 mins in medium heat. Set aside.
  • Wash rice and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tbsp veg oil, add the whole cumin seeds over medium heat and wait till it starts to release it’s aroma then add the lay leaf and the dry red chilli. To this add the sliced onions and fry on medium heat till it turns translucent. Add ginger paste and lower heat. Fry till it doesn’t stick tot he pot about a min or two.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till it turns pulpy. Add the turmeric, chilli and the coriander powder and fry over low heat, carefully so not to burn the spices. Add a tsp of water to keep the mixture moist.
  • Add the rice and the lentil and the green chilli(optional) and cook for another 3-4 minutes tossing in the spice mixture.
  • Add 3 cups of water to this and stir gently. Cover and let come to a boil. Once it starts boiling lower heat and let it simmer.
  • Stir once in a while adding to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom and to mix the rice and lentil properly. Add 1/4 cup water each time keep a smooth consistency.
  • Add the potatoes and cauliflower to the khichuri when the rice and lentil looks half cooked and stir gently. Add the peas once the potatoes and half cooked. Add sugar and salt to taste.
  • Keep cooking by stirring occasionally and adding water little by little till the last cup is exhausted and until the veggies are al dante.
  • Take off heat and keep covered. This will cook the vegetables just perfect.
  • You can always add more hot boiling water to bring the khichuri to your desired consistency.
  • Serve hot with a pat of ghee or browned butter and lime wedges to drizzle as you please.

Khichuri can be served alone or with a multitude of sides such as Papadams, fried eggs,deep fried fish, pakoras, batter fried chills and vegetables to name a few. One of my favourite pictured here is fried pumpkin with coconut.

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To make this simply slice pumpkins(or acorn squash) in 1 inch thickness and coat in a pinch of turmeric and salt. Let sit for 20 mins or so. Fry in mustard oil or olive oil one side at a time. Add a 1/2 tsp of sweetened coconut fakes per 4 slices of pumpkin, to the pan and toss with the pumpkin. Fry on low heat as the sweetened coconut burns very easily and quickly. Garnish with extra coconut flakes.

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35 thoughts on “Khichuri

  1. good old khichuri….. i have pictures of it sitting in my list of recipes to blog about…. something about Bengalis and khichuri… feel like making some now… beautiful story and pictures and I bet it tastes wonderful….. no wonder Tony was bowled over, that first time and every time ever after 🙂

  2. What a wonderful way to present the oh so common khichuri Debjani!….I wish people of North India would read it..for they believe khichuri is what you have only when you are ill, feverish or suffering from stomach troubles! My husband’s family are huge fans of khichuri and can have them for meals throughout the day 🙂 Its from them I came to know of a dish called bhuni khichuri…. heard of it? and keep blogging!

  3. Thank you Barnali! I think it would be hard to find an odd Bengali who doesn’t love khichuri. I can eat khichuri three times a day as well. And yes, I know bhuni khichuri, different but equally good.
    Thanks for the word of encouragement, I greatly appreciate it!

  4. Beautiful story. I have never heard of khichuri. And yours looks and sounds very delicious. I love all the ingredients and you used ghee!! I love ghee 🙂 Wonderful!!

    • Thank you Vijitha! I have heard of barley khichuri but never had the opportunity to try or cook yet. Is there a recipe you can share? I’d like to try. I do like shabu dana khichuri. And quinoa khichuri isn’t bad either….but nothing beats the good old!

  5. I loved reading this post! I think this is a perfect dish to invite a boyfriend over for… I mean it completely epitomizes home-cooking/comfort food so it’s something that’s harder or impossible to find at a restaurant, and yet it’s still not * that * simple to make so it was probably obvious that you put a good deal of effort into making it! 🙂

    Oh and I didn’t know that khichuri is another name for khichdi; thanks for explaining that. I’ve made khichdi before but with more large chunks of vegetables in it… I forget what– maybe broccoli in addition to the potatoes. But this version already looks plenty colorful and delicious as is.

    • Like I mentioned there are so many variations of khichuri. And they are so different yet so similar in ways. I love the world of khichuri! This recipe is very typical of West Bengal,India, where I am from. You can add other veggies if you like. I have added carrots and squash besides other veggies and it tastes equally good. You will enjoy this because it is so simple and comforting. Also there is quinoa and oats khichuri….very new version!

  6. I think your instincts were in perfect working order 🙂 There couldn’t possibly be a better test than a kichuri-dinner to find out if a man is ready to go the distance and become a bangali jamai! And somehow, khichuri and candlelight is making perfect sense to me.
    The photography is beautiful, Debjani.

  7. Perhaps thats what I was thinking! More often than I’d like to, I hear my family and friends say that Tony is more Bengali than me…. I think he was born with Bengali taste buds.
    Thank you Pia for dropping by and your lovely words.

  8. Pingback: Khichuri | about sean's food

  9. Such a beautiful story behind your dish and the comforting factor sounds like an ideal ingredient for any first date dinner.

    I love the simplicity of those lentils & spices together, hodge podge or comfort food is my ultimate indulgence when cooking for oneself initially! Even better when it’s cosy dinners for two 🙂

    • Thank you Alice! 🙂
      Khichuri is definitely a simple meal and a very humble meal. It is loved by most because of how well it sits in the belly. I love how versatile it is….add anything you want to it, any veggies, maybe a bit of meat even.

  10. I remember this one time when I was travelling for work. After eating out for 3 days, when I retured home at 3 in the mroning, the first thing I did was made khichuri and begun bhaja 🙂

    • I know what you mean. We often do that ourselves. Somehow it satisfies every bit of the home cooked meal cravings. I think it’s about time I made some myself again. Perhaps a bit of papor bhaja and an omelette, maybe some begun bhaja to go with it.

  11. And it makes perfect sense. First date, nervousness and many so many unanswered questions. Cooking kichudi calmed you down and also gave you an indication of where the relationship will go. Any non Indian who can enjoy khichudi on his first home-cooked date, is there to stay! 🙂

    • I think I was testing him out. I don’t even remember what I was thinking but it all worked out in the end! My husband and my little girl loves khichuri. And it’s khichuri-dichuri-doo to my little girl! 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading my blog and leaving me with your lovely comment. 🙂

    • I am afraid I don’t have any oil free recipe that I can think of right now except for chia seed pudding. But if I ever come across something that inspires me I’ll be sure to let you know. And no, I’m from Howrah which is right next to Kolkata. Where are you from?

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