Ancient Indian Dish: Kitchari
By Gina Shaw
Ah, kitchari. There is something so lovely about this simple and comforting dish that yogis have been eating for thousands of years. Only recently discovering this classic Ayurvedic go-to for detoxing and reviving the internal organs, I’ve been eating it quite consistently for the last couple of weeks. Pronounced kitch-ah-ree, this combination of rice and mung beans is a way to give the digestive organs a rest from breaking down many different types of foods, letting it focus on doing its job and doing it well. Some people may feel that a juice cleanse or fasting type detox is appropriate to them, but for those whose appetite would not withstand more than a day of consuming vegetable juice only; kitchari may be for you.
When we think of “comfort food” in America, it usually consists of something warm, fattening and rich in flavor. Growing up as both Italian and Irish, I have had my fair share of indulging in the culinary expertise of my mother and grandmother whose pastas and soups can make any day feel warm and inviting. Yet for some of us, we have experiences with these types of food and often find ourselves feeling lethargic and weighed down by what we had just consumed due to the rapid rise and fall of our blood sugars.
Kitchari is a complete protein, rich with revitalizing herbs and is able to keep the blood sugar stable. If one chooses to go ahead with a three day cleanse, it is instructed to eat as much of the kitchari as you need to feel full which surprisingly isn’t a lot. After a couple of days of eating kitchari, I found it significantly easier to rise in the morning and that warm lemon water was more than enough to get me going for the day rather than a cup of coffee. After the three days, I went back to eating my normal diet of oats, vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc. and I truly missed the comfort and stability of it.
Since then I’ve been making a large batch of it on Sunday evenings to have for at least one meal a day, mixed in with my normal diet. While I am of course not qualified to give any type of nutritional advice, my personal experience with this dish has been intensely gratifying and would recommend it to anyone.
There are many different recipes but this is the one I’ve been using these last couple of weeks.
Kitchari Recipe: (makes 8 servings)
You will need to soak 1 cup of basmati rice and 1 cup of green mung beans overnight. This will make it easier for the body to break down all the nutrients.
Fill a large pot with 8-9 cups of water to heat. When it begins to boil, slightly reduce flame and add mung beans for 15-20 minutes.
While the mung beans are softening, you can begin to create the masala mixture.
- 1-2 onions chopped
- 1 ginger root peeled and minced
- 1/4 coconut oil or ghee
- 3-4 gloves of garlic minced
- 1 1/2 tsp. tumeric
- 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 3/4 tsp. ground coriander
- 4-5 cups of vegetables of choice
Add onion, garlic, ginger and oil in a frying pan. Let simmer until translucent, then add spices. Mix until absorbed, and then let sit for five minutes.
Add the masala mixture to the mung beans along with whatever vegetables of choice. I’ve been adding radishes, mushrooms and broccoli to mine but feel free to choose anything else.
Let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, until it becomes a nice soupy and hodge-podge type consistency (of which I love, but ask my brothers and they’ll tell you otherwise.)
Make sure you’ve rinsed the rice at least two or three times and then add to the mixture and let sit for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. The first couple of times I made this I let it sit without mixing for too long and quite a bit stuck to the bottom of the pan.
When done, let sit for 15 minutes before serving. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days and tastes wonderful heated or cold.