Magical mishmash

June 6, 2010

How do you like your khichdi?

Sabudana khichdi (Prehistoric/Flickr)

As for me, i don’t have one answer to this question. At the height of winter, i am in a mood for khichdi made of sago. It should be just a bit runny, must be finished with a sprinkle of coriander leaves and served with a couple of sago papads.

At other times, a simple dal-chawal ki khichdi is perfect, especially on days when Delhi is drenched by an elusive shower. Rounded off with a dollop of ghee and plump green chillies, it’s ideally had with a couple of hilsa pieces fried in mustard oil.

For those like me who dare not fork out Rs 450 for a kilo of the fish, the choice of accompaniments with this ‘monsoon khichdi’ ranges from Bengali omelettes (garnishing of onion, tomato and chilli flakes), brinjals fried in a batter of flour and plain or masala papads. You needn’t have aachar or curd with this khichdi because the overwhelming flavour is that of ghee.

Then, there’s the rather frugal dalia ki khichdi — a fast-food in its own right, which i often pack from home as a snack. It’s easy to make — boil dalia and chopped vegetables such as potato, carrots, tomato, capsicum, radish (in short, whatever you can lay your hands on) and garnish with a tadka of cumin and mustard seeds in oil — and can be had in a jiffy with a couple of papads.

Masala khichdi (Prehistoric/Flickr)

The elaborate bhuni khichdi is more of a delicacy. You need to fry the dal and chawal in a pond of ghee, throw in pretty much the same spices you would use in a pulao, cook it on a slow flame and sprinkle ghee on the dish before serving hot. It’s not as easy to make as it sounds. There is an elaborate checklist: the khichdi shouldn’t be runny, the spices should subtly undercut the flavour of the ghee and not overpower it. A humble pumpkin or a potato fry goes best with it because the dish in itself is rich.

You get the best of this variety in Bangladesh. I still salivate at the thought of a mean bhuni khichdi i had a decade ago at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant outside Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Stadium. There, i had tried an improvisation: instead of taking the complimentary papad and brinjal fry with it, i ordered a bowl of dry mutton keema. You have to go to the city for the resultant taste of heaven.

Talking of keema, i just checked out a keema khichdi recipe that singer-turned-director Anjan Dutta today shared with the Anandabazar Patrika readers. You need rice, moong dal, mutton keema, garlic, ginger, onions, green chillies, white cumin seeds, garam masala, ghee, peas, potato and carrot. Let the cumin seeds crackle in ghee. Add a paste of ginger, onion, garlic and garam masala to it. Stir and add the keema, salt and sugar to taste and let it simmer before adding rice, dal and chopped vegetables to it. Dutta wants this khichdi to be a bit runny and says a vegetable fry compliments it like a dream. If you can read Bengali, check out the recipe at: http://www.anandabazar.com/archive/1100605/6rabimag.htm

Every winter, i sample a superlative khichdi. Offered as a bhog (prasad) during the Saraswati Puja, the dal-chawal ki khichdi served with labra (a Bengali vegetable curry) and chutney is a league in itself. You can’t replicate the taste at home. I guess the community cooking is the key.

Kedgeree (Jules Stonesoup/Flickr)

Time now to share a tiny trick. You can make a khichdi tastier by refrigerating it for a day or two and then savouring it after letting it thaw to room temperature. (Reheating it will spoil its firm texture.)

If you don’t have a fridge (yes, two of my colleagues still don’t have one), you can cook kedgeree — hash is a variety of it — for breakfast. A derivative of our khichdi exported to the UK, it is rustled up by using the last meal’s leftovers. Rice, parsley, boiled eggs, butter and smoked or flaked fish generally go into it.

Narayan ki khichdi (@Abhik Sen)

I had promised Alcazar, my amiable colleague, that i would briefly write on the khichdi they serve at Gupta Dhaba near our office. Dubbed Narayan ki khichdi — my hunch is Narayan is a Bengali or an Oriya cook — it comes with aachar and a complimentary katora of curd. They can do with a bit more ghee, but i guess the modest use of ghee and spices makes it a kind of health food. Order a papad and an omelette for instant but sure gratification.



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13 Responses to “Magical mishmash”

  1. Sharmi said

    This looks like a fruit of extreme labour. No wonder, this post is as vibrant and delicious as our humble khichdi. Thank you for the recipe. I’m going to try it soon so that you can enjoy it at home 🙂

    • netdhaba said

      I bet it was extreme labour! I kept on publishing the photographs but they started vanishing like spirits!
      Ya, let’s try keema khichdi once the city cools down a bit.
      Thanks a ton for your comment.

  2. Abhi said

    Boy I never knew so much could be said and in such a mouth-watering way about the humble khichdi! Bhuni and keema khichdi has me salivating (nethng with chagol in it is heavenly!)
    About the bhog khichdi, although I am not religious but I think its superlative taste has something to do with the occasion itself. Like you said its taste cannot be replicated and to add to it I think its taste cannot be replicated even by the same cooks if they prepared the bhog khichdi on any other day. I hate to admit it but I think something spiritual/religious/auspicious/supernatural happens to make the bhog khichdi so tasty!
    Ok my comment is longer than your pst:)

    • netdhaba said

      Not at all, sir. A long and thoughtful comment like this eggs me on to pen longer posts!
      And ya, you might just be right. The divine khichdi, pun intended, is perhaps rocking because it’s cooked for those who live upstairs!
      As for the keema khichdi, welcome to our humble kitchen and we would treat you to it along with a complimentary, you guessed it right, Tuborg!

  3. Abhi said

    Hmmm I am honoured to be invited to your kitchen for the keema khichdi but I would rather that the complimentary drink be a single malt:D

  4. netdhaba said

    Of course. I also love Johnnie babu as much i love my keema khichdi. I will surely offer you complimentary khichdi with the single malt you bring along 🙂

  5. Abhi said

    Hmm verry smart raabert main tumhe single malt liquid aaxygen mein dal kar pilaunga:)

  6. netdhaba said

    Liquid aaxygen dil mein aag laga dega, aur single malt usko bujha dega 🙂

  7. Alcazar said

    hello! From single khichdi to single malt… have I been away too long? But seriously, will have to try this combo once, along with hilsa fry…. just for the heck of it!!!

  8. Alcazar said

    By the way, there’s another thing special about this post… my first byline (or picture credit, if you will)!!!

    • netdhaba said

      @Alcazar: You are invited to every party I host. Football matches, mutton khichdi and Tuborg will be perfect.
      And your picture credit is my pleasure.
      Waiting for more photos from you and your Blackberry on this blog.
      Thank you, Sir

  9. Swarnava Adhikary said

    Rocking post!! I simply loved it…Never knew there are so many types of khichdi, just had the simple dal chawal ki khichdi all my life…next time I visit Delhi I wud love to have keema ki khichdi :-)…the concept in itself sounds wonderful…

    • netdhaba said

      @Swarnava: You are always welcome for keeema khichdi and more. It’s a pleasure treating you, considering you are such a foodie.
      Thanks for your comment and please keep reading 🙂

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