Kitchari from the Ayurvedic Tradition

While many of us are familiar with the comforting and healing power of traditional Chinese soups, a lesser-known yet equally potent medicinal cuisine comes from the ancient Indian tradition of Ayurveda. Ayurveda, which dates back to over 5000 BC, is one of very few systems of medicine developed during ancient times that is still practiced today, a real testament to the tradition of Ayurveda, with its complex branches of healing.

Many ancient healing philosophies honour food and nutrition for their ability to restore health to the body, and Ayurveda is no different. Variations on the traditional kitchari (also spelled khitchdi, khitchadi, or kitcheree) stew, a cleansing and nourishing Indian comfort food made with rice and legumes, are still enjoyed around the world today. In India, this wholesome stew is considered one of baby’s first solid foods.

Split yellow mung beans are traditionally combined with rice and warming spices like ginger, cumin, and turmeric to create a flavourful and nutritious meal. These beans are used because, unlike all other legumes, they do not cause intestinal gas, due to their husk being naturally removed during splitting. The husk, which is hard to digest and gas producing, naturally falls away, leaving the beans easy to cook and digest, and all of the nutrients available for absorption.

Mung beans are high in protein, fibre, and antioxidants and, combined with rice, make a filling and nutrient-dense meal to keep you healthy and satisfied all season long. Ginger helps to clear nasal passages and soothe upset stomachs, and turmeric fights redness, swelling, heat, and pain caused by inflammation. Kitchari stew provides a dynamite combination of healing power and flavour.

Kitchari Stew

By Kate Ortak

1 1/2 cups       basmati rice or quinoa, soaked overnight and rinsed well

1 1/2 cups       yellow split mung beans, soaked overnight and rinsed well

2 tbsp              ghee or coconut oil

2 tbsp              fennel seeds

1 tbsp              coriander seeds

1 tbsp              ground cumin

1 tbsp              ground turmeric

2 tbsp              chopped fresh ginger
8 cups             water

1 1/2 cups       chopped assorted vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potato, celery, cauliflower or winter squash (optional)

2 tsp                sea salt

1 to 3               handfuls of greens, such as Swiss chard, spinach or kale, chopped (optional)

Fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil or parsley, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat the ghee over medium heat. Stir in the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and beans. When the rice becomes translucent, about 3 minutes, stir in the ginger and water. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Stir, reduce the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the optional vegetables. Add more water if necessary, depending on how many vegetables you added. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer until the rice and beans are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the salt. Place the greens on top, if using (do not stir), and cook for 5 minutes. (The greens will steam and retain their texture.) The finished consistency of the stew should be rich, thick, and soupy. It will continue to thicken over time. Ladle into bowls and add fresh chopped herbs for garnish, if desired. Sprinkle with a little more salt to taste.