Sindhi Khichdi Rice

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

As rice or porridge, the khichdi was a mainstay of our Sunday brunches with Big Mama, my paternal grandma. Paired with toor dal, fried bhee (lotus stem), kachari (crispy fried noodle-y thingies made with rice flour) and dudh (yogurt, as we called it), we savoured this simple food made lovingly by my aunts. 

The adults would sit on the dining table, while the children could bring their plates to the sitting room and watch Little House on the Prairie. Those were the days! It's really amazing how we fondly recall memories that are centred around food.

Now fast forward four decades, it becomes arduous to sort through pages of google searches for the particular khichdi that I grew up with, as it was so regional, so local, that this particular way of cooking khichdi is virtually unknown in India, and actually known as the Pakistani style. Not surprising because Sindh, where my Dad comes from, is in the present day Pakistan. And since I didn't really get a recipe online,  I had to resort to the tactics of the pre-google era ... I called my aunt :) and voilà!

Khichdi, khichri, khichadi, khichari, or kichini, as I thought it was called, is essentially a dish where rice is cooked with mung beans, and as it turns out, can be anywhere on the spectrum from dry to mushy. This is the dish that gave birth to kedgeree, that somehow, during its 12,000 km journey from Bombay to London, picked up smoked haddock, hard boiled eggs and sultanas along the way.

And this ... is the Sindhi khichdi I grew up to know and love, the khichdi that brings recollections of brunches with Big Mama. So if this is your thing too ... make it today and jog your memories of meals with the family.

200 g (2 cups) basmati rice, rinsed
50 g (1/4 cup) mung beans, washed and soaked 6 hours or overnight
825 ml (3-1/2 cups) cold water
3 tbsp olive oil
5 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
3 cardamom pods
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp salt

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then add the bay leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom pods and cinnamon, and stir fry them until they sizzle.
2. Stir in the rice and soaked mung beans, and cook about 1 minute to let the oil and spices coat the rice.
3a. Now either transfer the whole thing into the rice cooker, add the water and salt and cook. Done!
3b. Stir the water into the saucepan, cover with a tight lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
4b. Remove the lid, and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

This was one of the times when I made khichdi ... it was for our vegan Diwali dinner, where we had the Khichdi rice accompanying the navratan kormamushroom tikka masalahyderabadi keema, and sai bhaji. We needed that rice to soak up all the gravy and goodness from the other dishes. But just like Nigella, if you saw me open the fridge during my midnight stroll, it was the rice that I just wanted another spoon of :)

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