The Kahani of the Khichdi

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The earliest reference to Khichdi comes from Vedic Literature. It is called Khicca and is described as a dish of rice and lentils.

It’s comfort food in most homes in India, but khichdi, is also interesting in many ways. It has ancient roots, has been one of India’s most enduring culinary exports and what’s more, it has an unimaginable number of mouth-watering sweet and savoury variations, that are often pretty healthy too! The khichdi is really the dish for all seasons no matter where you are. You can find it as the khichuri in West Bengal, bisibele bhat in Karnataka and ven pongal in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, historian Mohsina Mukadam describes khichdi as ‘the most ancient food in India, yet one that has hardly changed over the years’.

The name ‘khichdi’ comes from the Sanskrit word khiccā meaning a dish of rice and lentils. There are early mentions of this dish as Krusaranna in Vedic literature. Rice was teamed up (even then) with a variety of ingredients like milk, curd and even sesame (til).

The oldest evidence of Khichdi being prepared in India is 2000 years old. While excavating the site of Ter in Maharashtra in 2015, archaeologists came across two large pots with burnt particles of rice and green gram (moong dal) cooked together.

Court of the Nawab of Lucknow
Court of the Nawab of Lucknow | Wikimedia Commons

Centuries later, there is prolific evidence of how the Mughals gave this humble, common, folk dish a gourmet appeal, serving it to the royals. According to food historian Pushpesh Pant, Akbar had it served to Prince Salim when he returned victorious from a campaign in Gujarat. Of course, in the Imperial kitchen, it was given a name to match the occasion: lazizaan (the delicious).’

Did You Know?

A rakabdar (chef) employed by the Nawab of Lucknow in the 19th century was famous for making khichdi from pistachios shaped like lentils and almonds cut to look like grains of rice.

Since khichdi lends itself to a variety of flavors, a popular phrase in India is ‘Khichdi ke chaar yaar- dahi, papad, ghee aur achaar’.