Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Khichdi (Rice & Lentils)

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Khichdi is a dish found all over India and its pronunciation varies in every state as do some of its ingredients. It is basically made from rice and dal (lentils) and is commonly considered an easy to cook comfort food, although in some instances it is served as a main course. My son reminds me of the time he went to a Rajasthani wedding in Bombay and was served khichdi as a dish on the Sangeet night.
While in some parts of India, khichdi is served for dinner perhaps once a week, among Punjabis, it is served only rarely and especially when someone suffers from stomach problems as it is easily digestible or it is made for the elderly. It is also the first solid food that babies are introduced to. In Punjabi families, if khichdi is served, unwaveringly, the question will be asked, “Why khichdi? Is someone not well tonight?”
Among Punjabis, who are accustomed to hardier meals, this rather bland dish, usually made with running rice and moong dal with little or no spices, does not have a prime position among culinary delights. Still, it can be made tastier by adding lots of butter and eating it with some achaar (pickles), especially aamb (mango) or mitha (sweet) and sometimes some yogurt.
There is one other time that khichdi can be savored slowly. That is when the weather has just turned cooler and – at least in North India – you can sit in on a charpai (string cot) in the sunshine and eat it in peace.

1 cup basmati chawal (Basmati rice)
1 cup dhuli moong dal (skinless split moong lentils)
5 cups pani (water)
2 tbspn olive oil
1 tspn jeera (cumin)
1 tspn garam masala
Spices: namak (salt) – to your taste

1. Place the dhuli moong dal in a bowl and wash it thoroughly in cold water then let it soak for 30 minutes. Do the same with the rice.

2. Bring the 5 cups of water to a boil over high heat. When it starts to boil, drain the water from the dhuli moong dal and pour it into the pot. Repeat the process with the rice.

3. Add the salt, cover and let the mixture boil for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. If you want thinner khichidi, then add another cup of water.

4. When the rice and dal appear to be nicely mixed together then turn off the heat, cover and let it sit for 10 minutes.

5. If you use sabad moon dal (whole moong dal), then pour in the dal first, let it become a little tender, then add the rice and repeat the rest of the steps.

6. In a small karai or wok heat the oil, add the jeera (it helps in digestion) and brown it a little. When roasted and the smell of the cumin starts to come through, take off the heat and drop the masala into the pot of cooked khichdi and stir to mix well.

7. Sprinkle the top of the khichdi with garam masala and serve while still hot. This dish tastes good with aamb ka achaar (mango pickle). Some people prefer to eat it with some plain yogurt too. (For the sick, elderly and babies, skip the jeera tarka and garam masala)

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.



Invariably, in Indian dinners, there are leftovers and these are usually stored in the refrigerator in plastic containers. One of the most used are the empty, white yogurt or ricotta cheese tumblers – every Indian household has tons of these for storage!

But later, when the leftovers are taken out to be reserved, the curries and dals have become thicker, despite being warmed over the range or in the microwave and usually people add a little water to thin them out. But using cold water changes the consistency and taste of the dish. It is better to heat a little water and then add it slowly, stirring constantly, into the curry or dal preferably before heating it on the stove or in the microwave. You’ll be able to taste the difference.