Thursday, 6 February 2014

on how kichari soothes an upset stomach

i remember a complex set of rules and regulations about eating out from my childhood. pakistani tap water is unfit for drinking and therefore we always had boiled and eventually filtered water for this purpose. when we ate out we always bought mineral water. at casual and street-food like dining places we were not allowed to eat salad (because this was likely to have been washed with tap water) and there was no to be no ice in our cold drinks. ingredients that spoiled easily, especially those requiring refrigeration like diary and seafood were only to be eaten at trusted places. these rules were meant to protect us against water borne diseases and diarrhoea.

the lack of salad did not trouble me as much as being unable to drink mango milkshakes so thick that they would require effort to be pulled through the large straws inserted in them. the same is to be said of club soda with fresh lime and seven-up. also off bounds were the treats from the mooli wallah outside my school gate. i envied my classmates who would get long juliennes of mooli heavily anointed with chaat masala. this snack with its sharp, chilli and chatpata flavours would make the lips tingle and the mouth pucker but fell foul both on account of the ‘tap water’ and food hygiene rule. by secondary school i had worked out a way in which to eat mooli without my parents finding out. fortunately my stomach was sturdier than that of my sibling and rarely suffered setbacks. m often had an upset stomach and at times like these mama had to keep him from his favourite foods like mangoes, biryani, pulao, channa dhal and saalan chawal. she would also prepare kichari. kichari has the disposition of nursery food. it is gentle with a mere suggestion of spice. some may even call it bland but its restorative qualities are well known to the sub-continent and are echoed in other cultures that have similar rice based dishes. 

kichari’s soothing qualities are based on easily absorbed nutrition that does not tax the digestive system unduly. both the rice and pulses are soaked at length to make their nutrients readily available. most often the consistency will be soft and wet although mama’s had resilience because none of us can abide by porridge like rice. the scant aromatics added reflect popular ayurvedic healing properties. 

m of course cared for none of this and when he was given a bowlful would instantly demand pulao. mama would explain to him that pulao was unsuitable because it was ‘too heavy’ to which he would respond ‘ but i want heavy pulao’. i on the other hand would eat it even when well.


three hundred and sixty grams basmati rice
one hundred and eighty grams chilkay wali mung (split green mung beans)
four hundred and thirty + seven hundred and fifty ml water
two scant tablespoons sunflower oil
one short stick cassia bark
a small onion
one level tablespoon coriander seeds
a one-inch piece of fresh ginger
quarter teaspoon turmeric
two heaped teaspoons of salt

rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. then soak it in tepid water. follow the same procedure for the pulses. the pulses and rice should be soaked for a minimum of five hours. both will plump through absorption.

peel and slice the onion into thin half moons. heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and sweat until soft and translucent. the onions should not colour in the slightest. 

crush the coriander seeds in a pestle until you get a rough powder. they will half but not completely disintegrate. pound the ginger to a fine paste. add it to the onions along with the cassia bark, coriander and turmeric. fry the aromatics for a minute or so until toasted and fragrant.

drain the lentils and add them to the pot with four hundred and thirty ml of water. bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for around fifteen to twenty minutes. the pulses should be almost cooked. drain the rice and add it to the pot with the remaining water. bring the contents of the pot to a rigorous boil. then line the lid of the pan with a clean tea towel and cover the pot securely. reduce the heat to low and allow the kichari to cook for twenty minutes. 

check the kichari after twenty minutes. it should be soft and tender. fluff it up using a fork.

{pudeenay ki chutney}
mint chutney

a small bunch of mint
a pinch of salt
live yoghurt
a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds
water (if needed)

wash and pick the mint leaves. add these along with all the other the other ingredients to a blender. process them together. the resulting chutney should be a thin pouring consistency. add a little water if you need to achieve this. serve it with the kichari. 


  1. There are few meals that are as soothing and resuscitating as this one. I love that you add heat, I use butter x

    1. thanks deena! what spices do you add to yours? x