Kindle Your Inner Fire with Comforting Kichari
Balancing and fortifying, light and purifying, healing and nurturing, in many ways it’s the world’s original smart food.
In October and November, as days grow brisk, leaves scatter on chilly winds, and night comes early, there is nothing as warm and welcoming as a steaming bowl of kichari.
Split mung bean and rice, cooked long and slow with ghee and digestive spices, kichari is the foundation of Ayurvedic nutrition. Balancing and fortifying, light and purifying, healing and nurturing, in many ways it’s the world’s original smart food.
Heavy with macro and micro nutrients, light on the system and easy on digestion, kichari is served to the sick, elderly, overweight, and undernourished. It’s even ideal for post-operative recovery as it won’t divert energy from the healing process. Patients receiving Pancha Karma are often put on a kichari “mono-diet” because it so efficiently supports detoxification and rejuvenation.
Along with its medicinal power, kichari is great comfort food. Kindling the inner fires, it is like a warm hug that embraces you on cold, rainy days.
Since I didn’t grow up eating kichari, I am comfortable taking liberties. I used to follow guidelines regarding measurements, spices, proportions. By now, though, I have made it so regularly and in so many different ways that it has become entirely intuitive and completely personal.
I invite you to make it personal and intuitive, too. Using this recipe as a guideline, make your kichari as an ode to your own creativity, comfort, and care.
Makes enough for 2
- 1/2 cup split mung beans, also known as yellow dal
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 3 tablespoons ghee (coconut oil for vegan)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala*
- 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated (1/8 teaspoon if ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 inch cut of kombu
- Optional: 1-2 cups seasonal, market-fresh vegetables, grated, chopped or torn
- 1 handful sesame seeds
- 1 handful pumpkin seeds
- 1 handful coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon tamari, or bragg’s or coconut aminos
Begin by rinsing the mung beans and rice in a colander until the water runs clear. Leave to drain while you melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garam masala, ginger, turmeric. Swirl the pan to mix and sauté for one minute.
Stir in the mung and rice and completely cover in the spicy oil. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer.
Cook for 30 minutes, checking to be sure the kichari is neither boiling too aggressively, nor drying too quickly. If it does start to dry, bring water to a boil separately, then quickly stir into the kichari. Maintaining a consistent boil when cooking beans ensures a soft, creamy texture.
If you are adding vegetables, stir into the kichari now. Simmer another 10 minutes. Taste to ensure it’s done. If it is creamy, remove from heat and let stand, keeping it covered.
Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds and coconut flakes in a small pan until they are lightly golden and aromatic. Turn off the heat and stir in the tamari.
Serve the kichari in bowls. Top with a small knob of ghee. Spoon the sesame-coconut flakes over each serving.
*Make Your Own Garam Masala
Make a little at a time or a whole jar to use throughout the autumn season and boil with milk for a soothing digestive tea. 2 parts to 1 part means that whatever amount you use of the ingredients in the first list, use half that amount of the ingredients from the second list. While freshly ground seeds make a fresher more flavorful spice, use ground spices in equal measure if you do not have the seeds.
Two parts: coriander seed, whole cloves, ground cinnamon
One part: cumin seed, cardamom seeds, black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg
In a skillet, toast the seeds, cloves and peppercorn, leaving out the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir over medium heat until the spices begin to brown and release their aroma. Remove the pan from the heat. Allow to cool, then grind in a spice grinder, electric blender or mortar and pestle. Blend in the cinnamon and nutmeg and use immediately, or store in a well-sealed, glass jar and use within one month. By Laura Plumb