Khichdi is the ultimate comfort food for us Indians. And yet we have never valued it enough. Khichdi has been there for us when no other dish will go down our throats. It is there during sickness in health, through poverty and wealth. The simple and yet flavourful dish has come a long way from the kitchens of the royals in India. Before the times of Biryanis and Pulaos, a simple Khichdi was a special dish in the kitchens of the kings. This dish, made with yellow split mung beans with the quality and quantity of spices (usually milder than most Indian dishes) varies from region to region.
I have memories of sharing a large plate of Khichdi – with only turmeric and salt spicing it coming to me as my sister and I would have it together as toddlers from that one plate with dollops of ghee dripped on it. And the comfort of this dish also comes from the memories attached to it. Like when I’m feeling down, or simply lazy, Khichdi always comes to my rescue. It’s rice, moong dal, and steaming it until done with ghee adding that irresistible factor to the dish.
In northern India as well as western state of Gujarat, a bland version of Khichdi exists. With no vegetables or fragrant spices – it still is comfort food for many. In Karnataka, the southern part of India, a tangy and spicier version called bisi bele bath is eaten with zest – lentil rice. And in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a rice and lentil dish called ‘Nombu kanji’ is a regular dish during the month of Ramadan.
Also, do not mistake Khichdi to only be vegetarian, it’s non-veg versions are also prevalent across India. For example, a dish called ‘Khichra’ can be vegetarian with different grains or has five different kinds of lentils, rice and lamb. According to Colleen Taylor Sen, author of several books on Indian cuisine, archaeological records suggest people on the subcontinent were eating rice and legumes (chick pea, peas, pigeon peas and red lentils) as far back as 1200 B.C.
The beauty of Khichdi can be as simple or elaborate as one wants. In Awadh, it included sugar, khoya, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and saffron, while another royal recipe from the court of Mughal emperor Akbar, had for equal parts of lentils, rice and ghee.
Then of course, after the Mughal empire fell, the British invaded India and adapted several Indian recipes to their cuisine. British liked it so much that they took it back home and created their own version – kedgeree. This is a popular breakfast dish made with rice, boiled egg and haddock. Khichri could also possibly be an ancient version of of Egypt's national dish, koshary – made with rice, lentils and macaroni. Mujaddara is another Middle Eastern version of Khichdi with rice and lentils, and its origins can be traced to the 10th century.
This one pot dish is evidently the ultimate comfort food, and an essential part of global diet – only varying according to subjective and local tastes.
dently the ultimate comfort food, and an essential part of global diet – only varying according to subjective and local tastes.