i was first introduced to kitchari in bali, by my didgeridoo-playing musician friend nick. he shared the bungalow next to ours, and we’d often run into him on our morning walk through the rice paddies. on more than one occasion, i couldn’t help but notice that his hands seemed to have an oddly yellow tint to them…golden and shining in the sun, they were hard to miss. one day i finally got an explanation, when nick told us that he’d made a big batch of turmeric-laced kitchari the night before. i’d never used fresh turmeric before, but apparently, its deep yellow-orange color left its trademark, and held up to even the best scrubbing attempts. a couple days later i was fortunate enough to try nick’s kitchari, and i was very into it. so much so that i made my own the next day. not only is kitchari delicious and gorgeously golden in color, but it also has powerful nutritious properties beyond most one-pot meals. the widely touted ayurvedic recipe is super easy for your body to digest, and packed with protein. turmeric also adds anti-inflammatory powers.
kitchari means mixture, usually of two grains. traditionally these are yellow split peas (mung dahl) and basmati rice – ideal for the vata constitution. on top of these two basics, kitchari incorporates turmeric and oftentimes ginger, as well as coconut oil or ghee. i’ve seen several different versions of kitchari recipes, but the basic premise is simmering those ingredients in a pot for over an hour. not overly complicated. you can add more spices/seeds for additional flavor, or stir in vegetables for added texture. if you can get fresh turmeric, definitely use that; however, powder works just fine too. although with the latter, you won’t get to show off your yellow hands.
below i’m sharing with you my favorite recipe for the ayurvedic dish. also, because i need to get back into incorporating music into these posts, i wanted to share music that i fell in love with while in bali. medicine for the people and xavier rudd – much loved in the ubud community, and rightfully so. check them out if you don’t know them – specifically, this song by medicine for the people and this song by xavier rudd. (didgeridoo nick introduced me to the latter!)
A RECIPE FOR KITCHARI serves 4-6
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 1 cup yellow split peas (mung dahl)
- 3-in. piece of turmeric root
- 3-in. piece of ginger root
- 2 tsp curry powder or cumin
- 4 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 cups water
- optional: vegetables of your choice (e.g. 1 sweet potato & 1 zucchini & a handful of kale)
- heat 3 tbsp coconut oil or ghee in a pot.
- add chopped onion and garlic.
- simmer for 10 minutes on low.
- in a mortar & pestle, blend ginger and turmeric root into a paste.
- add to pot and simmer til fragrant, around 3 min. add curry powder.
- add rice & yellow split peas, mixing to coat in spice / oil paste.
- add 6 cups of water. if adding vegetables, stir in veggies at this point (diced into cubes). bring to a boil.
- reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary.
- add salt, to taste. garnish with fresh cilantro, if you like.
- you could also add a tbsp each of coriander seeds, mustard seeds or cumin seeds when first sautéing the spices in oil, which will add to the earthiness.
- this recipe is super versatile. you can substitute most grains for the brown rice – white rice, quinoa, barley, whatever you got. and as for the split peas, lentils work just fine (although split peas are easier to digest).
- if you don’t have a mortar & pestle, simply finely dice the turmeric & ginger.
- this is a great dish for a monocleanse, where you eat only kitchari for 24-48 hours – it’s a nice break for your digestive system, and a good alternative to a juice cleanse.