Why the humble Indian khichdi enjoys superfood status

Why the humble Indian khichdi enjoys superfood status

Naveen Madan did not like khichdi as a child and associated rice and lentil porridge with stomachs and disease. But he changed his mind a few years ago after a week-long cleansing recommended by an Ayurvedic doctor.

“I had some health and digestive problems. After eating khichdi for a week, I was fine. My stomach thanked me,” said the lawyer and tax consultant who lives in New Delhi. Since then, he has eaten the dish a few times. week and sought it out for both taste and restorative benefits.

Khichdi is a one-pot meal that combines lentils, rice and ghee. The versatile dish, usually prepared to a semi-porridge-like consistency, is often the first solid food given to babies in India. It also acts as an easily digestible gruel for those who feel under the air, is a preparation offered to the gods at several festivals in India, and is easily adapted with various spices, grains and even meats.

Origins and legends

Channa dal khichdi is popular during the Indian harvest festival in Makar Sankranti.  Photo: Kishi Arora

Khichdi has been a part of Indian cuisine for centuries. It was mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas, where it is called kshirika, as well as in the accounts of various travelers over the years, revealing that it has been enjoyed by both peasants and emperors.

Since there were no vaccinations, foods like khichdi were intended to strengthen and prepare the body for seasonal changes

Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, culinary chronicler

“Khichdi’s exact origin is difficult to pinpoint, but my hypothesis is that it stems from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as a cooking method to break down the grain feed,” says Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, a culinary chronicler and food consultant living in Mumbai. . “The recipe evolved as it traveled around the country.” She attributes the popularity of the dish to convenience, as dry grains are non-perishable and spices are easily transported, plus it can be cooked on almost any flame.

In modern times, there has been a growing understanding of khichdi’s health and nutritional benefits. The healthy dish contains carbohydrates, protein and good fats, and its various spices can aid digestion, while the use of different grains and lentils provides increased nutritional value and adaptability to different diets.

Its importance in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of traditional medicine, has also attracted global attention in recent years, and khichdi has become known for its cleansing and healing abilities.

One dish, many preferences

Different temperaments (tadka) add khichdi flavor and nutritional value.  Asafoetida, ginger and cumin are digestive aids, while ghee is a natural laxative.  Photo: Kishi Arora

While the most commonly prepared khichdi combines rice and moong daal (yellow split gram or split green gram), there are many versions across the country, tailored to local flavors and ingredients.

“My dad loved khichdi and it was often made at our home,” says Kishi Arora, pastry chef and food consultant living in New Delhi. “He preferred a tadka [spiced tempering] of ginger, black pepper and cumin. My mom made separate tadkas for each of us to make a dish with different flavors.

“I like mine with mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic and amaranth.”

Medfan Gunjan Mehra Sabikhi, a salesman from Noida, says: “For a light meal I make a mixture of yellow grams and red lentils, but we make chana dal [Bengal gram] khichdi to festivals like Raksha Bandhan and Diwali. “

Khichdi is also an integral part of harvest festivals celebrated all over the country; the freshly harvested grain is a symbol of life and renewal. “Festival food was also essential from a health perspective. When there were no vaccinations, foods like khichdi were meant to strengthen and prepare the body for seasonal changes, ”says Munshaw-Ghildiyal.

Rice and lentils together form a complete protein, which contains all nine essential amino acids

Safia Livingston, dietitian

Thanks to the global support that Ayurveda is now enjoying, there has been an increase on social media of various recipes and recommendations for “kitchari cleansing”. The “Indian superfood” is also included in diets for bowel reset and transition through seasonal changes, plus for its overall nutritional value.

However, some traditional Ayurvedic experts reject these modern-day khichdi recipes, which are prepared with ingredients such as coconut oil and various varieties of rice. “I am not a pro-khichdi, but a pro-krsara, the Sanskrit name according to Ayurveda, which is completely digestible and easy, ”says Rekha Radhamony, a fourth-generation Ayurvedic medicine doctor who practices in Dubai.

“Ingredients like coconut oil, which is heavy and cold, and basmati rice, the worst form of rice in Ayurveda, are harder on the digestive system.” Radhamony describes Ayurvedic krsara as an accurate blend of 12-parts sona masoori rice, eight-parts mung beans, plus sprinkles of asafoetida, fresh ginger and ghee.

Mens krsara may be specific to Ayurveda, the nutritional value of various khichdis can not be ignored. “There will be a similar nutritional benefit from using lentils,” says dietitian Safia Livingston. “Millet, crushed wheat, oats and quinoa all contain more protein, fiber and micronutrients than rice, making khichdi with one or more of these ingredients a more nutritious option, better for weight loss, heart health and balancing blood sugar levels. I just want to warn people with heart disease or high cholesterol to limit ghee to one tablespoon or less a day. “

One for superfood seekers

Using different grains provides different nutrient-dense options.  Here khichdi is seen with cracked wheat, pearl millet, rice, lentils, quinoas, spices and vegetables.  Photo: Kishi Arora

Indian nutritionist and author Rujuta Diwekar calls khichdi “a nutritional superstar” and says several of her high-profile clients, including Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor Khan, are integrating it as part of their health regimes. The court also plays into the increased focus on eating local and traditional foods, especially during the pandemic, as health professionals often recommend that Covid-19 patients eat khichdi because of its nourishing, high-protein and easily digestible properties.

Livingston says khichdi should not be limited to those with gastrointestinal problems. “Khichdi contains the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat. Rice and lentils together form a complete protein, which contains all nine essential amino acids. Ghee is a natural laxative and contains very low levels of milk protein casein and lactose, so it is a good choices for lactose intolerant people or those who avoid dairy products due to digestive problems. “

Commonly added spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, asafoetida, pepper and carom seeds also have anti-inflammatory properties and help with digestion, regulate sugar levels and solve respiratory problems.

“It was really as an adult that I started appreciating this comfort food,” says Neha, a marketer living in Bengaluru. She eats khichdi regularly, especially after a trip, or in preparation for a busy or demanding period. “Stress always affects my digestive system and khichdi is the best pacifier, both physiologically and psychologically.”

Neha occasionally switches the rice out with millet. “I make an oat version for breakfast, where the proportion of lentils is lower. Various spices, vegetables and even small adjustments, such as frying moong daal, add nourishment and distinct flavors. “

Sabikhi includes millet and crushed wheat in the winter, while Arora varies its khichdis with seasonal vegetables to get more fiber and spices such as ginger and peppercorns to prevent indigestion and boost immunity.

These different interpretations are united in their ability to nourish, heal and provide comfort and demonstrate the versatility and accessibility of khichdi. “Across India and abroad, khichdi has been adapted to different sensitivities by incorporating locally available ingredients. It is a simple everyday meal that can be customized to provide the flavor and nutrition you need,” says Munshaw-Ghildiyal.

A fashionable superfood on the way, that is.

Updated: January 13, 2022 at. 04.33

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