Kitchari- The Savior of Ayurveda

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food.
– Hippocrates

Holy smokes the holidays are here! I don’t know about you, but I am still feeling like a stuffed animal post-Thanksgiving fiesta. Fine, I admit it, I may have snarfed down the majority of the rosemary brown sugar walnuts I made as a “gift”. Bottom line, I feel less than stellar. My energy level is low, my brain feels like it is shrouded in thick muslin and my pants…well, I’m sure you can guess how those are fitting. Sigh.

I can’t let these hedonistic adventures get me down, it’s part of life and heck, I’m American. I find solace in remembering that this delicious dish, called kitchari, has got my back. Kitchari is kind of the Indian equivalent of chicken noodle soup. In India, kitchari is often used as a tonic for children, to aid woman postpartum, and for convalescence or any other debilitated condition.

What’s so great about this stuff? Composed of equal parts basmati rice and split mung beans, kitchari is one of the crowning gems of Ayurveda. Both basmati and mung are balancing and extremely easy to digest. The simplicity of this dish makes it deeply cleansing and the cornerstone of Ayurvedic detoxification regimens. Mung beans pack a powerful punch, containing all 8 essential amino acids. They are loaded with protein, iron, B vitamins and trace minerals. This wee bean produces little gas and is considered tri-doshic and can be eaten year round.

For you environmentalist out there, I would be remiss if I did not mention that as a crop, mung helps absorbs tons of nitrogen from the atmosphere annually. Now think about the effect mung beans have inside your body- namely on excess nitrates (from too many hot dogs) and nitrites. I had one teacher describe the mung as little PAC-MAN chomping away at the nitrogen. This is a good thing. Too much nitrogen in the blood can cause many health risks, including vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues as well as cancer. Get that shit out of there.

What’s more, kitchari is said to:

  • Help with chronic indigestion
  • Boost the memory
  • Rebuild and soothe the intestinal lining, thereby allowing the digestive tract to get some rest.
  • Ghee, often added to kitchari, contains butyric acid which bolsters the health of the colon and intestinal walls.
  • Turmeric (what gives kitchari the beautiful golden color) mends the villi lining the intestines as well as soothes inflammation in the gut.

Whenever I am feeling like I overdid it during the weekend, I make a pot of kitchari and eat it for all three meals to make amends. It’s my way of extending an olive branch to my body. I’m sorry for binging on popcorn and wine the other night…here, have some kitchari. One Ayurvedic doctor suggests that once a week you dedicate a day to eating just kitchari. This gives the system a chance to reset and relax while making necessary repairs required to keep chugging merrily along. Whether you want to just give it a try or would like to do a 5 day kitchari cleanse, I say give it a shot and see how you feel. Post holidays, this dish is a life saver.

One Pot Kitchari 
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients:                                                                                                                                          

  • ½ cup organic yellow split dahl
  • ½ cup organic white basmati rice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 inch knob of ginger root- peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 inch knob of turmeric root- peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 ½ tsp of curry powder or garam masala
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Seasonal vegetables – beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, etc.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
    • Additional Toppings- Cilantro, fresh lime and shredded coconut

Method:

  1. Combine rice and dhal in a large stainless steel pot. Rinse with cold water, drain and repeat twice more.
  2. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil, scrape off foam that rises to the surface.
  3. Once the rice/dahl is boiling, reduce to medium heat and add ginger root, turmeric root and coconut, simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add any root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips) and spices
  5. Allow kitchari to sustain at a low boil for about 25 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently to prevent sticking. Add more water as needed.
  6. Add any softer vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, green beans, chard stems or kale stems and allow to cook for 5 more minutes.
  7. Turn off heat and add ghee, salt and any greens.
  8. Top with fresh lime juice, cilantro and a sprinkle of coconut.

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