“Ahmaga! AHMAGAHH!” The Boy was clearly trying to tell me something.
“What?” I asked, half-afraid he didn’t like the kitchari. I knew I liked it, but he’d never tried it before. Probably because I’d made him a steak out of misplaced guilt or something. I do that.
Oh, God, I AM turning into my mother!
Anyway. The Boy was making frantic fanning gestures at his mouth.
“HAAAHT! Is haht! ::cough cough swallow::”
What’s that, The Boy? You’re trying to tell me I’m hot? Well, way to point out the obvious, but thanks, nonetheless, my good man!
“I was trying to say, the kitchari is really hot. But oh, man, I could eat this every day!”
Oh. Right. Well, that’s still complimentary. I guess.
But kitchari isn’t exactly pretty or elegant–in fact, it’s best described as, well, gruel. But he’s right–kitchari kicks all kinds of ass.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with kitchari, it’s a dish that’s very popular among those who live according to the principles of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is a philosophy and healing art designed to restore the harmony and balance of the body. The main premise is that people can generally be classified as having one of four main body types, and that this type determines how you should eat, sleep, and exercise for the best health and longevity.
Whatever, man. I just think it’s really good.
So what is it? Well, it’s a thick, stew-y dish of split yellow peas, rice, vegetables, and easily-digested spices, with a texture that I can best liken to a very thick, starchy oatmeal. Because it’s low in fiber, non-challenging for compromised digestive systems, and extremely nutritious, it’s often used as the sole means of sustenance for ill people trying to get their bodies back into balance.
READ: I eat it when I’m hung over.
But that doesn’t mean kitchari is bland–the spice blend of fresh fennel and mustard seeds, along with crushed cumin, coriander, and turmeric makes this savory, warm, and not boring at all. Try kitchari if you’re recovering from digestive upset and feel you may not be getting the nutrition you need. Ulcer-sufferers, IBS patients, vegetarians, those poor, poor people making unkeepable promises to never, ever drink again, and even just healthy people who want a big, warm bowl of something primitively nourishing can all benefit from a big, warm bowl of this MAGICAL STUFF THAT TOTALLY BROUGHT ME BACK TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING OH GOD.
What’s that you say? You’re horribly hung over, you say? You feel sick as a dog, you say?
FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC! Let’s eat!
Makes, like, a whole bunch
1 cup Brown Jasmine Rice (traditional recipes recommend white/basmati rice…I love the scent and texture of brown jasmine so that’s what I use. You use what you like.)
2 cups Mung Dal (split yellow peas); I’ve also used half yellow split and half green split with great results
7 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tbs. Ghee (I just use regular melted butter, unclarified; use oil to make this vegan)
1Tbsp Fennel Seeds
3 tsp. Mustard Seeds
2 tsp. Cumin Seeds
2 tsp. Turmeric Powder
2 tsp. Coriander Powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Generous pinch ginger
1 heaping cup frozen peas
2 medium yellow potatoes
Large handful baby carrots, sliced into wheels
Large handful chopped cilantro leaves
Rinse and sort mug dal thoroughly. Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot, like a Dutch Oven. Sauté the seeds in the fat until they start to pop. Then add the other spices. Add the mung dal and salt, and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add water, bring to boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the dal is about 2/3 cooked.
Add rice and these vegetables. Stir to mix, adding extra water if the mixture is too thick. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Keep checking to see if you need to add more water. You want to achieve as little remaining water as possible, so make sure you leave the lid on the pot when you’re not stirring or checking it. You’re not making a soup, or even a stew–remember my thick oatmeal analogy. When the rice is cooked through, taste the mixture to see if it needs additional salt. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.