For many Indians, khichdi—a one-pot meal of rice cooked with lentils and vegetables—is a comfort food and a diet staple. There are hundreds of recipes for preparing it and hundreds of ways of consuming it. Many Bengalis enjoy khichdi with an assorted platter of deep-fried vegetables and fried fish, while others serve it with either pickles or yogurt.
Because the only necessary ingredients are rice, lentils, vegetables, and a minimal amount of spices, it’s known as a poor man’s supper, satisfying for lunch or dinner. And many eat it during sickness, as it’s light and easy to digest.
I often feel like khichdi lives and rules the life of a Bengali. In West Bengal, khichdi season starts with monsoon season, in early summer. And in the fall, a sacramental khichdi is prepared for Durga Puja, a festival in honor of the Goddess Durga. In my parents' home in Kolkata, my mom prepares khichdi with winter vegetables when the temperature drops; during Saraswati Puja (a festival to worship the Goddess Saraswati) in February, she feeds about forty-something people out of one big pot.
Since coming to the U.S., khichdi has become a staple part of my diet, too. As a graduate student, I used to prepare a big batch to have on hand during finals. Since it requires very little supervision while it cooks, it was the easiest dish to make. It's filling and reheats nicely, which is why I still pack it as a lunch to bring to work.
The rice can be replaced with quinoa or bulgur, the lentils can be either yellow mung or red masoor, and any kind of seasonal vegetables (peas, tomatoes, asparagus, or green beans, for example) can be added.
Whatever variation I make, I never forget to make potato fries to go with it.
For the khichdi:
- 1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
- 1 cup yellow lentil (mung dal)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 12 to 15 green beans, trimmed and chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 green chile, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
- Salt, to taste
- 8-10 cups water(Check notes above)
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, for garnishing
For the potato fries:
- 1 pound baby potatoes, cut into small cubes
- salt, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
What's your favorite one-pot comfort meal? Tell us in the comments!