Simmer Down

How to Make Khitchidi, the Ayurvedic Comfort Dish That’s Good for Any Meal

Turmeric, black pepper, rice, and daal come together in a simple nourishing bowl to soothe away and relieve daily stresses.

khitchdi
Photo courtesy of Nandita Godbole

Different kinds of trauma set in after the burglary in 2018. We couldn’t sleep without having nightmares. We doubted everything, including our identities as brown immigrants. We disengaged from all, even our backyard garden. We lost our appetite, and for me, the motivation to cook. No dish excited me; cooking, eating, and sharing felt like a joyless, tedious routine.

When Kent mangoes appeared at our local grocery store, I was even more homesick than before, wistfully remembering summers at our family farm in India, gleefully devouring home-grown Alphonso mangoes. My maternal grandfather had scouted the farm for us. After his passing, my parents had nurtured it. Here, we had sumptuously paired mangoes with roti, fried pooris, and as dessert, all consumed at leisure and at will. I loved eating them alongside steaming turmeric-laden khitchidi, doused in warm milk from our water buffaloes. Mom dolloped homemade ghee on it “to balance everything out.” It was a simpler time.

Mom often passed down Ayurvedic wisdom at every meal, particularly over khitchidi dinners. Soft khitchidi made with pressure cooked rice and yellow moong daal was a balanced meal, gentler on the stomach, and ideal for dinner. Small quantities of pepper and turmeric warmed and healed the body. Both milk and homemade ghee were sweet and cooling. Consumed in small amounts, they too were dosha balancing, nourished the skin, bones, joints, and boosted immunity. She would tell us how seasonal ripe sweet mangoes were vitamin-rich, balanced all doshas, and ensured restful sleep. Every ingredient emphasized moderation and balance.

But it wasn’t just the ingredients that made an ideal dinner. We would sit cross-legged on a shetranji (blanket) with my family in the courtyard of our family home, eating this dinner as the perfume of grandmother’s ananta (gardenias) enveloped us. My parents retold my grandfather’s stories. In this dinner we were connecting the mind, body, and spirit, one generation with the next. The ingredients kept it balanced, offered Ayurvedic healing, and the many layers of care comforted the soul.

Now, only my mother and our memories remained at the farm. We couldn’t go there to be with her or eat home-grown mangoes. The Kent mangoes were stand-ins, without the people or stories. I perfunctorily purchased a case of unripe mangoes and placed them on our neglected dining table.

When I entered the kitchen to make my cha the next morning, their unmistakable, faint unripe aroma surprised me, elicited familiarity, and educed fond memories. I unconsciously smiled, not my typical response to ripening fruit. Each following morning, their aroma sweetened until one morning, a few mangoes had ripened. I knew it was time.

Later that night, I reached for equal parts of rice and yellow moong daal. I felt the swirling and dancing of the grains around my fingers as I rinsed them in cool tap water. I dipped in my fingers to measure one knuckle's worth of water like my mother had taught me. I dusted in some organic turmeric powder from home-grown rhizomes that she had sent me a few months prior, along with a few peppercorns and a dash of salt. With every reach into my masala dabba, I remembered her guidance around the Ayurvedic benefits of simple ingredients.

But there was one more step. While the pressure cooker worked its magic on the ingredients, I ducked out into the unexpected Georgia May drizzle to retrieve a freshly bloomed Ananta. The tablecloth became our shetranji, and we sat cross-legged on the living room floor. Cradling bowls of ghee topped, milk-doused, turmeric-laden khitchidi, ripe mangoes, I retold my grandfather’s stories. I finally felt centered again.

Khitchidi With Milk, Served With Mangoes

Makes: 4 servings
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

To serve:
  • Home-made ghee
  • Cold milk, optional
  • Freshly cut sweet mangoes
To cook:

Pressure Cooker, Rice Cooker, or Instant Pot
 
Rinse the basmati rice and split yellow moong daal under cold running water until the water runs clear. Use a container that will fit inside your cooking device or is suited to it. Choose a container that can hold twice the volume of the uncooked ingredients (minus the water).
 
If using a pressure cooker, add water until it reaches your first knuckle. Add the turmeric, black peppercorns, and salt. Add blanched petite peas if using.
 
If Using a Pressure Cooker:
Add two cups of water into the pressure cooker before placing the uncooked khitchidi container into it - like a double boiler. Close the lid, place the whistle on. If your pressure cooker only has a whistle, allow 3-5 whistles. Remove from heat. Open carefully after the pressure cooker has completely released its steam. 

If your pressure cooker has a pressure release valve, and a ‘whistle’, cook on high and allow it to release pressure for 7-9 minutes while cooking. Remove from heat. Then, allow the pressure release valve or tab to drop on its own before opening the pressure cooker.

If Using a Rice Cooker or Instant Pot:
Measure the combined quantity of uncooked rice and daal.  Treat this as one ingredient, and follow their measuring instructions for the correct grain to water ratio. Cook as per device settings for cooking white rice.

Serve hot with a dollop of ghee and milk and a side of freshly cut mangoes. Gather and enjoy.

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Nandita Godbole is a Thrillist contributor.
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