The warm weather disappeared and our thoughts turned to kitchari as it rained and rained and rained. Researching Bhuna Kitchari, I came across a very interesting recipe, one that took time and extraordinary care over the making of this dish. Bhuna Khichuri is a richer version of Kitchari and injects flavours not only through the spices used but also by the slow frying of onions, the roasting of the mung dal and the frying of the other lentils and rice. There are 5 lentils used in this dish. The word Bhuna actually comes from the roasting of the moong dal and the frying the rice as the kitchari is made.
It is true that this recipe for Bhuna Khichuri is fussier than others – more steps and an attention to detail. But the end result justifies the means. Often at our house Kitchari is made in the rice cooker, and it is pretty fast and pretty good. But when time allows, more complex variations yield wonderful results. The recipe isn’t difficult – let me reassure you – it just has a few more steps. I have followed the original recipe fairly closely, with just a few alterations.
The secret to this dish, which I recommend that you note, is the frying of the onions – caramelise them – the quality of your ginger-garlic paste, toasting of the mung dal and the frying of the rice. The texture of the dish is wonderful! Also, on occasion I have used urad dal and matki (moth) beans when I have been out of masoor or mattar dal. Both need to be in the longer soaking.
Bhuna Khichuri | Bengali 5 Lentil Kitchari with Toasted Mung Dal
this recipe makes enough to feed a small army if served with a small Indian salad and some Indian Tomato Soup/Shorba. It is a gently spiced but flavoursome aromatic dish.
1.5 cups basmati rice, kalojeera rice or gobindobhog
0.25 cup mung dal
0.25 cup massor dal
0.25 cup toor dal
0.25 cup channa and mattar dal mixed (or use all channa dal)
1 large onion, chopped
1.5 Tblspn ginger-garlic paste (or mince 3 or 4 cloves garlic with 1.5 cm piece ginger – if your ginger is young enough you can put it through a garlic press)
1 tspn turmeric powder
2 tspn Indian chilli powder
2 Indian bay leaves (teja pat)
1 small stick of cinnamon
4 green cardamom
sea salt to taste
3 or 4 whole green chillies
Take the mung dal and toast it in a dry pan until it is very golden and aromatic. Leave aside. Also leave the massor dal aside.
Rinse the channa and mattar dal and the toor dal and soak it for at least 2 hours. Strain and rinse, then bring it to a boil and cook it until about half done (perhaps 20 mins, but keep an eye on them). Drain really well.
As you put the lentils on to cook, soak the rice and mung dal for 30 minutes. Drain it really well.
Heat the ghee in a kadhai or medium-large pan, and add the Indian bay leaves, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick . Then add the chopped onion and saute it over a low to medium heat until the onion is well cooked and browning.
Add the dals and rice. Add a little more ghee if necessary, and fry and stir the rice and dal. The more you fry, the more flavoursome the kitchari will be. Add the ginger paste and the garlic paste, the chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt . Continue stirring and sauteing.
Add 5 cups of warm water to the rice mix. (For per 1 cup of mixed rice and dal, use 2 cups water. If you like soft kitchari, add a little extra water .)
Cover the pan and cook on medium heat until the water dries out , around 10-12 minutes . Don’t stir at that point , or else you may end up having Letka Khichuri (mushy khichuri) rather than Bhuna.
When the water is almost dried , add the whole green chillies and stir carefully once only from the bottom to the top and from one side to the other without breaking the rice. Don’t stir vigorously.
To finish the cooking, place your pan over another same size vessel which contains simmering water. Your pan should sit on top of this one, like a double boiler, so that the steam from the water below continues cooking the kitchari. This gentle cooking method finalises the cooking and ensures that the grains are separate and not clumped. You will be surprised at the result. Leave it to simmer on low for about 10 minutes, but the cooking is gentle so if you leave it longer, it will be fine.
Check seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve and enjoy!
recipe notes and alternatives
Also, on occasion I have used urad dal and moth beans when I have been out of masoor or mattar dal. Both need to be part of the longer soaking step.
Peas can be added to the rice. Raw cashews, sauteed in some ghee, make an excellent topping for the rice. Throw in some coriander leaves too, if desired.
Serve hot with Indian Tamatar Shorba (Indian Tomato Soup), Begun Bhaja or Indian Carrot Salad, and with Indian pickles or onion, and slices of lemon. Enjoy!