There is an old marathi adage, that goes 'vyakti titkyaa prakruti', which means 'there are as many personalities as there are people', and the food extension of it might be that there are as many khichadis too. Some like it soft, almost mashed, some prefer it more pulao like, with all grains intact. Some like it mild, others prefer it spiced. Either way, it is a quick and easy one pot meal of rice and dal that is comforting to eat and effortless to make, and almost everyone who grew up with tends to recall fondly. The rice in it adds the starch, which has to somewhat magically mean comfort in any language, and the dal adds a good source of protein which is easy to digest. It is also a dish that is found throughout the country in some form or the other - khichdi, khichri, khichuri, venn pongal, even kedgeree, which was adopted by the colonials, are all variations on the same theme, and just some of the names by which I know it.
I recall a friend in school who said that she disliked khichadi because it reminded her of the times when she was sick, and I just couldn't relate to that, because at our house, khichadi was always a Sunday dinner feast. It was never bland, always delicious, and served with several simple accompaniments, making it a warm, hearty meal to wrap up the weekend before we all started another rigorous week. I saw the friend's point later in life, after I heard about the mild, very soft khichadi that some people make when in need of some kind of recuperation, which also confirmed how two people who lived within minutes of each other saw the same thing so differently.
The general rule I follow when making khichadi is to use 2 parts rice to 1 part of dal, usually moong dal. If there is some time, I like to soak the dal for about an hour and the rice for about half an hour, as the dal gets softer and it helps to speed up the cooking. If there are any vegetables on hand, those can be added to it too.
Moong Dal Khichadi with Potatoes
The basic, simple maharashtrian moogachi khichadi can be made in several ways. This is a version I made once after returning from a long and tiring trip, and it turned out really good, so I had to make a note of it. What I do usually is more or less the same, with variations. The potato is a great addition if one believes that there is no such thing as starch redundancy, but other vegetables like cauliflower and peas are also very good in this khichadi. Goda masala is the main flavor component here and it has no substitutes. Any other compatible masala could be used here, but that will change the taste accordingly.
The usual accompaniments to it at home were yogurt, fried sandga mirchi (dried chilies stuffed with spices), roasted papad, pickles, thinly sliced onion, and extra grated coconut and chopped cilantro. A good spoonful of ghee used to be poured over the khichadi itself.
1 cup of rice
1/2 cup of moong dal
1/2 medium red onion
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
4-5 cloves (optional)
4-5 whole peppercorns (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1-1/2 tsp goda masala
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 medium potato
1 teaspoon oil
1 Tablepoon of grated coconut
2-3 Tablepoons of chopped cilantro
Soak the rice and moong dal in water for about an hour and drain. Slice the onion.
In a large wide pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add asafoetida, cloves, and peppercorns. Add the onion, and stir fry till it changes color. Add turmeric, and the grains. Stir everything together, and add 4-1/2 cups of water. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat, add chili powder and goda masala, and cook covered on medium heat for 15-20 mins.
While the khichadi is cooking, chop the potato into small fries. In a wide saute pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and saute the potato on medium-high heat until it is golden brown outside and tender inside. Add a little salt. When the khichadi is done, add the potatoes to it.
Garnish with coconut and cilantro.
Serve with the accompaniments suggested above.
Sending this over to the Monthly Mingle, where the theme this month is Comfort Foods.