Punjabi Kitchari Makes its Debut in the Washington Post

January 07, 2015

It felt like 2011 all over again. When I watched Mumbai-born Chef Floyd Cardoza win Bravo's Top Chef Masters with his take on the seemingly mundane South Indian breakfast upma.  I mean Indians in the know get how addictive and delicious upma actually is, but how could it capture the attention and respect of the culinary West? It's ... so .... simple. 

It was the same feeling seeing Kitchari - and my take on it - make headlines in the Washington Post food section this week. "Are you serious?" "Wow. How Cool!" were some of the responses from my Indian-American Facebook friends. "Kitchari in the Washington Post????" one South Asian friend and fellow journalist exclaimed. Yes, we've made it! Click here to read the whole piece. 

It took an enterprising food writer to not only cover the dish that I've been raving about for years, but to cover it right. She got it. Congratulations to a well-written piece by Emily Horton, who I came to find out had a deep-seeded interest in learning more about Kitchari.  

She found me through an email and when I got the inquiry on my take on the comfort food, I jumped at the chance to talk about it. Luckily, we got to do it in person in Seattle, where Emily is based and I happened to be traveling for my book launch in October. It was a perfect match-made-in-heaven. I love talking about this rice-lentil porridge apparently as much as Emily likes eating it, apparently.  

For Indians, Kitchari is pure comfort in a bowl. It's what we eat when we have an upset tummy. It's our go-to when we have a cold. It's therapeutic like chicken noodle soup in the West. And why, you'll likely never see Kitchari featured on an Indian restaurant menu. We Indians just don't think that other folks would want something we consider medicinal. 

Here's my recipe, which is on page 145 of my new book, Indian For Everyone. You are going to love it. And, now that we have frigid weather in Chicago with schools canceled - guess what I'm making? 

Duhli Moong Dal Kitchari

2 cups duhli moong dal (dried, split, and skinned green dal), picked over and washed (they will look  
1 cup white basmati rice
8 cups water
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)**
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 black cardamom pods (use green if you don't have black)
1 small yellow or red onion, finely diced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
1-3 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh onion and cilantro, for garnish
1 tablespoon butter or vegan margarine, for garnish

1. Combine the duhli moong dal, rice, and water in a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart (or larger) stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Brown rice is a good substitute for white; if using, add another 1/2 cup water.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, until all the ingredients soften and blend together and the mixture has a porridge-like consistency. A light film may form during the cooking process - just skim it off the top and discard. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to cool slightly while you prep the remaining ingredients. 

3. In an 8-inch saute pan over medium-high heat, warm the ghee. Add the cumin seeds, ajwain, turmeric, and cardamom and cook for 40 seconds, until the cumin seeds sizzle and turn reddish brown. 

4. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles. Cook for 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly browned. Remove from the heat. Add more chopped veggies, including corn, carrots, or tomatoes, at this point, if you like. 

5. Transfer the contents of the saute pan to the stockpot containing the dal, add the salt and the red chile powder, and stir well. Remove and discard the cardamom pods. 

6. Transfer the mixture into individual serving bowls. Garnish with the onion, cilantor, and butter and serve immediately, piping hot. 

* You can use any split legume that breaks down upon cooking. 
** Not everyone has these little seeds sitting around, so certainly make your dish w/out them, but when you have a chance to source them and use them you'll realize it's a key part of this dish. 

Try This!  Sub 1/2 cup quinoa for 1/2 cup of the rice for added protein and my take on Dal-Quinoa-Rice Kitchari. 

Enjoy and Stay Warm! xoxo Anupy

Guess what??!! My spices are on the shelf at Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago. Come check them out and let's buy them out! There are basic spices and the key spice blends roasted and ground to perfection needed to make all the recipes in my books. If you want these spices in your local WF, head to the customer service desk and make some noise. It's easy for them to order now that they are in the Midwest Region! 


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