Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kichdi (Indian Rice and Bean Casserole)

Kichdi, Ragada and Chopped Salad
Rice and bean dishes are well loved in many variations not only in India, but also in many other countries; there are countless numbers of rice-and-bean dishes the whole world over. In the northern states of India rice and dals are combined with spices and vegetables to make Kichdi though they vary from state to state. Pongal, Ven Pongal, Bisi Bele Rice, Pulagam, etc are made in the Southern States.

The combination of grains and lentils make for complete protein complementarity and wholesomeness. It can serve as an inexpensive yet attractive, filling, and delicious meal any time of the day. It is definitely part of the repertoire of comfort foods in our household.

Every country, why every culture, has their own special version. In Egypt, we had Kusherie (it even sounds like "kichdi") and Risi e Bisi in Italy. Other countries also have similar dishes such as Kedgeree in the British Isles, Casamiento with rice and black beans from El Salvador, Arroz-Feijao with rice and black, red, or blond beans from Brazil, Red beans and Rice from Cuba and myriad others.

I love making Kichdi not only because it is delicious, but also being a wholesome one-pot meal it cuts down on precious meal prep time on weeknights. Since it freezes very well too, one can make a double batch and freeze some for another day.

Kichdi is typically made from rice, split mung beans, vegetables, and spices. Other dals such as chana or masoor could be used instead of the mung or a combination of different dals may be used just as in Brown Rice-Barley Pongal. Kichdi can be prepared fluffy or more or less creamy and soft - depending on the amount of water added. It is served piping hot with the traditional accompaniments: pickles, papadums, and a raita or plain yogurt.

This Kichdi is not very spicy in spite of the spices listed here; if you like a more spicy dish you can increase the spices or add crushed red pepper flakes to the rice-dal during cooking instead of/in addition to the red chilies in the thalippu.

Mild, soft, and wholesome Kichdi is often prepared during convalescence as it is considered easy to digest. It is also a great first food for little ones.

8 Main dish servings


1 cup Basmati Rice
1 cup split yellow Mung Dal
1/2 small Cauliflower or Green Cabbage
1 large Carrot
1 small potato
1 cup Green Beans
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Salt or to taste


4 Tbsp Ghee
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies
1/8 tsp Asafetida
2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger


Sort dal, wash the rice and dal in several changes of fresh water, and drain well in a sieve. Or just place rice and dal in the sieve and rinse well until the water runs pretty clear. Let it drain.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot and stir in the rice and dal. Add turmeric and salt and bring to a boil again, reduce heat and simmer partially covered - if the rice mixture is boiling vigorously, it will boil over and make a mess; so keep the heat low.

Prepare the vegetables while the water/rice-dal is boiling; chop potato and carrots into bite-sized chunks, remove ends and chop/snap the green beans into 1" pieces, separate the cauliflower into small florets and chop the stems.

As soon as the the rice-dal mixture starts simmering add the potato and carrot pieces.

Prepare the thalippu: Heat the ghee in a small pan and add the chili, cumin and fennel seeds. When they sizzle a bit, add asafoetida and the ginger and cook for a few seconds. Pour the entire contents of the pan into the kichdi pot and stir well.

15 minutes after adding thalippu, add the rest of the veggies. At this point more boiling water (about 1 or 2 cups) may be added if the kichdi appears thick; especially if you prefer a soft kichdi.

Simmer the kichdi until rice, dal and all the veggies are tender, about 15 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a little pat or butter or ghee and the traditional accompaniments of hot Indian pickles, papadums, and a raita or plain yogurt or as desired.

Note: Kichdi is not stirred a lot in order to prevent it from becoming mushy; use a thin, flat wooden spoon/spatula to stir when needed.

1 comment:

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