Bengalis love their kitchari, and love the rain. Often the two go together – as the rains come, the consumption of kitchari increases exponentially.
There are dozens of types of Kitchari. It is eaten in different forms all over India, but even in Bengal alone, many varieties exist. Kitchari style dishes can vary from pilaf/pulao-like dishes, to the more porridge-like Pongals of Tamil Nadu and the beloved Bisibelebath of Karnataka.
This kitchari is a well-cooked – that is, it is quite soft and moist, almost slightly soupy. It is delicious and it is perfect on a rainy day, any where in the world. The defining characteristics of this kitchari is that it is very soft (norom) and white, as well as healthy. It is mostly tempered with onion and garlic. (It can also be served very soupy, almost like an Indian version of Chinese Congee. We will add a recipe for this version later on and add a link here.)
I have seen Kitchari referred to as Hodgepodge. My goodness! A hodgepodge is a random assortment of things — a group of things that don’t quite fit together. There is a dish from Nova Scotia called Hodgepodge but it is nothing like Kitchari. It is a collection of beans, peas and potatoes cooked in one pot. It is also common to call Kitchari as risotto. Again this is a great misnomer. Kitchari must be one of the most well known of Indian dishes outside of India, thus it is surprising to see Indian cooks give it other names. You can read more about that here.
Norom Shada Khichuri | Lyatka Khichuri | Bengali Soft Kitchari
this makes a lot. halve the ingredients if you want a smaller amount.
2 cups aromatic rice, like basmati, kalojeera, kataribhog
0.75 cups masoor dal (I have used masoor lentils too, and it is delicious but they don’t melt into the kitchari as well as the split lentils)
1 cinnamon stick
2 Indian bay leaves
3 cardamom pods
7 black peppercorns
3 onions, chopped + 1 extra, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped + 1 extra, chopped
2.5 cm piece ginger, grated
2 – 3 green chillies, sliced
2 tspn cumin powder
2 tspn ginger powder
2 tspn coriander powder
1 tspn turmeric
0.5 tspn Indian chilli powder
1 tspn cumin seeds
2 small tomato, chopped
salt to taste
mustard oil (optional)
Mix the rice and lentils together. Wash thoroughly. Drain and set aside.
Heat 3 Tblspn ghee in a kadhai or large saucepan. Add the cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cardamom and bay. Sauté until a nice aroma arises.
Add the green chillies, 3 of the chopped onions, ginger and 3 of the garlic cloves. Sauté until the onions are just turning golden.
Mix in the spice powders. Stir with the onions until they are toasted, 1 or 2 minutes. Add a little water if they become too dry.
Now add the mixed rice and lentils. Mix with the spices, and add 5 cups water. Bring to the boil. Cover and cook until rice is soft and breaks easily. Add salt after about 10 minutes of cooking. Add more water while it is cooking, if necessary. The texture of the kitchari should be soft, easily mashable and slightly wet.
In a separate pan heat 2 Tblspn ghee at medium heat. Sauté the remaining onion and garlic. Add the cumin seeds towards the middle of cooking. Sauté until the onions are golden brown.
Add the fried onion mixture to the rice when it is cooked and mix through. Add the chopped tomatoes, and mix well.
Serve with chopped shallots or spring onions (scallions). Drizzle with a little Mustard Oil or ghee for more flavour.