Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegetable Khichdi

They say that one always dreams in the language that one is most comfortable with -- their native language, so to say.  I've also heard it said that the language that one is most conversant is the one a person uses to do math and sums in their head.  I think a similar analogy applies to food.  A long while ago, I wrote a blog post for the American Society for Nutrition, entitled 'The Immigrant's Fridge."  Part of what I was saying in this article is that one of the last things to change in the assimilation process of an immigrant to a new culture is their diet.  For someone like me, who's had the privilege of having traveled widely and lived amidst various cultures, questions about self-identity can be hard to answer.  For instance, I cannot truly answer the question of which language is my native language, though I suspect that it is in fact English.  Certain other aspects -- such as what I consider to be an appropriate amount of personal space when speaking with someone -- are decidedly American.  But when it comes to food, perhaps my Indian identity has proved a bit more indelible.  Ultimately, on a rainy, cold, and grey day, when I start craving comfort food, the recipes that I most often resort to still tend to be Indian ones.  Familiar ingredients, cooked simply and quickly, with just a smattering of spice to satisfy my tastebuds.  As I sit here on such a cold, grey, and rainy day in Portland, I share with you one of my favorite comfort food recipes for you to try out.  I'd love to hear what you think of it.

Vegetable Khichdi 
(loosely translated as a vegetable porridge)

1 C cut vegetables, such as beans, carrots, peas, and corn
1 C short to medium grain rice, such as jasmine, washed
1/2 C moong daal*
Half a red onion, finely sliced
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)*
1 tsp turmeric powder*
2 tsp cumin seeds *
1.5 T spice mixture
2 tsp salt

To make the spice mixture:

Grind equal amounts of cumin seeds and whole black pepper in a spice mill to a coarse consistency.  This spice mix is great on a variety of foods, including sliced cucumbers, tomato soup, and roasted potatoes.

To make Khichdi:

Pressure-cook vegetables, rice, and daal with 1.5 C water till rice and daal are very well cooked, usually about 6 whistles**
Allow cooker to cool completely
In the meantime, heat ghee, add cumin seeds and turmeric and sautee till seeds crackle
Add onions and sautee until they are translucent
Add rice/daal mixture and spice mixture
Mix well, sprinkling some water on top if needed to help spices mix into rice
Taste and adjust for salt

The final consistency of this dish should be like very thick oatmeal.  It is often served with either yogurt or an Indian style pickle*.  But it's most importantly always served piping hot!

Cook's Notes

* These are all available most easily at Indian grocery stores and sometimes at well-curated specialty markets.

**If you don't have a pressure cooker, a lot of Indian recipes are quite a bit more time-consuming.  In this case, I would suggest soaking the daal in hot water for about an hour, and then mixing it with the rice and veggies and cooking in a rice cooker or an open vessel until the daal is softened completely.  I also recommend investing in a good pressure cooker, as this is a great way to steam and cook foods quickly with minimal loss of nutrients.

To reheat, lightly sprinkle water and heat in microwave.  Alternatively, heat in a skillet, adding enough water to loosen up the rice and lentils.


  1. Hey Harini,

    What an awesome recipe- definitely comfort food! I followed your directions and it turned out so well...a resounding success at home, especially with the 2.5 year old:) I am glad you put it up on FB whenever you have a new recipe to share- I hope you continue to do that.

    Great job..!!

    Aparna Vasanthakumar

    1. Thanks Aparna...and it's great to hear from you after so long. I'm especially glad that your kiddo also loved the khichdi. Do keep in touch!