Punjabi Khichdi: One-Pot Meal With Lentils and Rice
Punjabi Khichdi is healthy and flavorful preparation for rice and lentils is a simple and comforting food, ideal for those days when you are in no mood to cook something. Quick, and yet so delectable, this dish makes a wholesome meal for the sick. This soul-comforting recipe belongs to my mom.
I have grown up savoring khichdi. It was a standard meal in our home, especially when my working mom would return late from office or when someone in the house would fall ill. Yes, it would not be wrong to describe it as a "food medicine," especially for fever and stomach ailments.
Served with curd or yogurt and papad (chips), it makes a gourmet lunch. It's my favorite still—and now my husband, who had not tasted it before, has started liking it, too. It's his favorite lunch when he is unwell. The stew is finger-licking good and has healing properties. On top of it, it is ready within 15 minutes. Need I say more?
The aroma of cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, and bay leaf adds ultimate flavor to the dish. You can start to feel the aroma even when the preparation is still underway. Do not be surprised if the aroma infuses your kitchen and there is a flood in your mouth!
A Little History
Khichdi is widely popular in India, especially north and West Bengal. This lentil-rice recipe varies from one state to another. While in Punjab, it is usually made with rice, yellow lentils, and red lentils, Bengalis use split green gram (green moong dal) and rice to prepare this dish. In Bihar, the one-pot meal is enjoyed with aloo bharta (boiled and mashed potato with green chilly, onion, and mustard oil), papad, pickle or chutney (condiment). The dish is a customary meal on Saturdays in Bihar.
Different forms of khichdi are prepared in Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, and southern Indian states. In Karnataka, it is known as bisi bel bath and in Tamil Nadu, it is ideally prepared during festivals and known as Pongal. In Odisha, this dish is served as prasad or offering to Lord Jagannath along with pickle, papad, and curd. Gujaratis savor khichri with kadhi (curd stew).
I have been lucky enough to savor three types of khichdi—one from my native state of Punjab; another one from Bengal, thanks to my Bengali neighbor; and the third one from Odisha, my husband's native place.
Khichdi even finds a mention in the words of Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, who mentions it as kishri, composed of rice and mung beans (green gram lentils). It is described in the writings of Russian adventurer Afanasiy Nikitin, who visited South Asia in the 15th century. The dish was very popular with the Mughals, especially Jahangir. Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century document, written by Mughal Emperor, Akbar’s vizier, Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, mentions the recipe for khichdi, which gives seven variations. There is an anecdotal story featuring Akbar,
Surprisingly, the rice-lentil stew finds a mention in Ain-i-Akbari, the 16th-century treatise written by Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak in the court of Mughal emperor Akbar.
Abu'l-Fazl mentions seven khichdi variations. Jahangir, Akbar's son and Mughal emperor, was very fond of this thick stew.
Enough of history! Now let's come back to the recipe:
- 1/2 cup rice
- 1/2 cup yellow lentils
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 1 tbsp garlic-ginger paste
- 1 tsp (more or less) salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 tomato
- 2 onions
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 5 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 big/black cardamom
- 1 small piece star anise (optional)
- 1 small stick cinnamon
- 1 tbsp oil
- Mix both lentils and rice and soak in water for an hour.
- Chop onions and tomato separately.
- Make garlic and ginger paste.
- Wash the soaked ingredients and remove from water.
- Take 1 tbsp oil in a pressure cooker
- Drop in bay leaf, big cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon stick.
- Let the whole spices sit in the oil on a low flame until a pleasant aroma starts to fill your kitchen.
- Add chopped onions and saute untilt they turn little pinkish on a medium flame. You may add half of the salt at this stage. Adding salt to onions speeds up their frying process. This tip was shared by my mother in law.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and enjoy the aroma ozzing out of it. Continuosuly saute everything. Ginger has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
- Add chopped tomato and mix everything well until the masala starts to leave the sides of the vessel.
- Add sugar, salt, turmeric, and garam masala. Mix it well.
- Take the lentil-rice mixture and pour over the masala in the pressure cooker.
- Add water and mix everything.
- Cover the pressure cooker lid and cook it until 2 whistles.
- Open the lid once the steam escapes and enjoy khicdi with curd, pickle, or chutney.