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Broken wheat and vegetable dish. A very healthy Gujarati meal served with pickle and papadum. Wikimedia

New Delhi, July 27, 2017: Across South Asia, khichri, or khichdi as it is called is a popular comfort meal for all seasons. Colleen Taylor Sen, author of several books on Indian food culture and history says that the dish is pretty close to becoming a universal dish on the subcontinent.

The power of “Khichdi” is its versatility to different flavours and needs

In northern India, a bland version of khichdi (no veggies, no fragrant spices) is savouring food for many. It is also associated with sickness or upset stomach as it is a light food. In southern India, Karnataka, a seasoned version called bisi bele bath (hot lentil rice) is a famous dish. Moving ahead in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a rice and lentil dish called nombu kanji is a standard food during Ramadan.

Also Read: Here are 5 Indian Dishes that are Popular Across the Globe!

The different versions of khichdi differ in texture as some are dry, watery or porridge-like. There are savoury and sweet khichdis also. To one’s surprise, there is a khichdi non-vegetarian variety also. For example, a recipe called khichra has five distinct variety of lentils, rice and lamb.

Most khichris have two common ingredients – rice and lentils, which have been a part of Indian cuisine since the ancient time. Archaeological records suggest people on the subcontinent were eating rice and legumes since 1200 B.C, as mentioned in NPR.

The Indian philosopher and politician Chanakya from 300 B.C., wrote that the well-balanced meal for a person should consist of one prastha (about 1.4 pounds) of rice, quarter prastha of lentils, 1/62 prastha of salt, and 1/16 prastha of ghee or oil.

The notable Moroccan explorer from 14th century A.D., Ibn Battuta wrote about poor people in South Asia eating khichri made with rice, mung bean and butter.

A recipe from the Akbar’s court, the 16th-century Mughal emperor, also calls for equal portions of lentils, rice and ghee.

Khichdi, too, like in India spread to other parts of the world. The British savoured it so much that they ended up creating their own version called “Kedgeree”, the popular breakfast dish made with rice, boiled egg and haddock.

An American food writer and author of several cookbooks, Clifford Wright cited, “The Indian khichri becomes the Anglo-Indian kedgeree in the 17th century.”

He added, “Then it jumps across the Atlantic to New England, where it’s made with rice, curry powder, and fresh cod”, reports NPR.


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