True Life: I’ve been eating kitchari for a week straight.
Not a kitchari-only diet, but I’ve been making batch after batch after batch and always having some on hand for a warming dinner or some mid-day nourishment.
Let me explain…
A couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends Jeanne posted something about trying a kitchari cleanse. This perked my ears up immediately because 1) As Jeanne says herself, she usually “runs from the word cleanse,” so I knew this must be something very special, and 2) I had tried kitchari a few times before at Ayurvedic retreat centers, and loved it – but had forgotten about it.
After seeing her post, I went on to read Dr. John Douillard’s blog about kitchari, and soon – I was all over it, LIKE WHITE ON RICE!!!! Basmati rice, to be exact.
When I saw Jeanne’s post, I was on the tail end of a 3-week trip to Australia (where it’s currently summer), and I was getting ready to head back to NYC (winter). I knew I’d need something grounding and warming to help me not only assimilate back into winter, but also to cleanse my system from weeks of travel food. I generally eat well when I travel, but there’s truly nothing like home cooking to soothe and replenish your body – especially after lots of long flights and being on the road for awhile.
I got the spark of insight that kitchari-making would be my immediate plan upon arrival in Brooklyn.
I knew I needed some hands-on knowledge of how to make kitchari, and I needed it STAT! I decided to route my flight from Sydney through the Westchester airport instead of my usual JFK, and went straight to stay at Jeanne’s apartment for a few days where she laid it all out for me. She explained how to make kitchari and she even gave me her extra ingredients to take home with me!! True friendship!!!
I came home and started whipping some up in my own kitchen and I haven’t stopped.
At this point you’re probably thinking...OK, WHAT IS KITCHARI!? Let’s get to the details, shall we?
I read this on Kripalu’s site:
“Kitchari, traditionally made of yellow mung dal and basmati rice, along with digestive spices and ghee, is used as a cleansing and detoxifying food in Ayurveda. This might be a little hard for us to wrap our Western minds around, as we hear more and more about grains being inflammatory and bad for us. But there is Ayurvedic wisdom to support kitchari’s healing properties.”
I was thinking the same thing about the grains! This ain’t paleo, or grain free, Bulletproof, or any of that. In fact, it brings me back to my days of being a vegan…which basically feels like the days of yore. YESTERYEAR, even!!!!
So what gives?
Mung dal beans, one of the two main ingredients, are high in protein and carbohydrates, offering satiety and energy. Protein is important for keeping the blood sugar, and therefore the mood, stable. Basmati rice is easy for the body to digest, allowing the system to work with ease. The spice “churna,” or mixture, sparks our agni, or digestive fire. The ghee (or oil) lubricates the system and further aids in digestion. You can add seasonal vegetables to the recipe to give variety and to boost the vitamin and mineral content.
via John Douillard:
Above all other Indian meals, there is one which is considered to help facilitate spiritual growth. It is the Ayurvedic detox food – but it can also be found on many dinner tables on a normal day, as it is loved for other reasons, as well. Kitchari, pronounced kich-ah-ree and sometimes spelled khichadi or khichdi, has long been used to nourish babies and the elderly, the sick, and the healthy during special times of detox, cleansing, and deep spiritual practice.
Some people even describe kitchari as “magic.” And that’s EXACTLY the kind of alternative fact I can get behind!!! #yup
So a couple of questions you may have…
What kind of mung beans? Well, the specific kind of mung bean you need for kitchari is a yellow split mung dal bean, also referred to as MOONG DAL. I love saying “moong dal.” I’ll say it all day. According to Ayurvedic traditions, moong dal is the only kind of bean that doesn’t produce intestinal gas, and these ones are “split,” having the husk removed, so easier to digest. Interesante, no?
But I also got another bag of it from Banyan Botanicals on Amazon. I accidentally bought a 5lb bag. So basically…kitchari party at my place!!
Why white rice instead of brown rice?
Once again, it has to do with digestion. The reason kitchari is considered so cleansing is because it’s very soothing to our digestive system. Brown rice still has the hull on it, which can be harder to digest. Read more about it here.
Here’s the rice I used for this kitchari – organic basmati rice.
I’ve been hearing for awhile about white rice potentially being better than brown rice (gasp!), and I’m going to write a dedicated blog post about it soon. In fact, I will officially say…I am over brown rice. File it under “health foods I was pretending to like.” ;) No, but really. If you are in the camp that believes all starches are unhealthy, so be it, but if you are ok with having some starch in your life, white rice may be a better choice in some cases. More helpful details on white rice vs. brown rice here.
Alright – I think I’ve provided you adequate links and resources so you can successfully go on a kitchari-reading binge if you so desire. And I suggest you do!
Why do I like eating kitchari?
First off, it does feel AWESOME on the digestive system. It feels like eating a warm, comforting soup, but thicker and more filling and nourishing. It’s like comfort food…but “magic” comfort food. ;)
Secondly, I love how simple it is, and how I don’t have to think about it much. When I’m home by myself and working, I don’t always feel like making some crazy multi-part meal, so having a container of kitchari in the fridge has been taking the guesswork out of eating. As I said before, I haven’t tried a kitchari-only cleanse, I’m just having it as a welcome addition to my regular life.
Thirdly, it’s DEEEELICIOUS. I have been putting ghee, cilantro, and lime juice in mine, and it’s so incredibly tasty. I really like it.
Here’s the recipe I’ve been using. In my experience so far, this makes a big batch — enough for 4+ meals (for one person).
- 1 cup moong dal, soaked overnight
- 1/2 – 1 cup basmati rice (I’ve made it with 1/2 cup rice, and also a batch with 1 cup rice. Using more rice will make it thicker).
- 6 cups of water
- 1-2 tbsp grass-fed ghee
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- salt + black pepper to taste
- pinch of cayenne
- 1 lime
- 1 small bunch fresh, chopped cilantro
- Soak moong dal overnight (or at least for a few hours).
- Rinse moong dal and rice until the water runs clear.
- Put ghee + all spices into a big pot, and heat until fragrant.
- Add water, moong dal and rice into the pot with the ghee and spices.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 40 mins – 1 hour, until it becomes a thick porridge. Add more water if you need to during cooking!
- When it’s done, put a serving into a bowl, squeeze lime juice on top, and add fresh cilantro.
- Store the rest in the fridge and re-heat on the stove whenever you’re hungry.
Have you ever made kitchari? What do you think? Are there any variations that you love?
Chime in, little birdies!
Nourish yourself on the daily.
Sending love and kitchari vibes,