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Why Kitchari?!

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.

A simple, porridge-like blend of beans and rice, kitchari is often referred to as the Indian comfort food. But perhaps contrary to the western idea of comfort food or even health food, kitchari has many nourishing and cleansing benefits. Every ingeredient in Kitchari is considered to be super Sattvic. Sattva is the balance of the mind, in ayurveda it is believed that anything we eat creates the same qualities in our mind and our body, so yes "you are what you eat"! And Sattva is the balance quality of the mind. If you consume food that is not fresh, cold, frozen, left over or processed, this food has lost its "life-force" or what we call in Yoga and Ayurveda, Prana and therefore this food can not add any more of the good qualities of Prana to our minds. Our emotions are created by what we eat. Kitchari is all made out of balanced qualities. Look at your food, what are the present colours, smell your food and take in the good scents, sense the textures in your mouth...all of this come together to complete the digestion process and kitchari is a perfect basic way to do all this.

Split yellow mung dahl beans: these are the only legumes that are classified as “vata balancing” in Ayurveda. This means that, unlike every other type of beans or lentils, they will not produce any intestinal gas.

White basmati rice: For kitchari, white rice is used because the husk has been milled off to make the rice easier to digest. While brown rice may be used – and will actually supply more nutrients – the husk makes brown rice much harder to digest. During cleansing, or at the times when we need to give our digestive tract a break, a time of already compromised digestion, this can irritate the intestinal wall and cause digestive gas or abdominal pain.

Ghee: I will be posting a separate article about the amazing and many benefits of Ghee. Ghee is called "The oil from the gods" Why?! The cow is considered very scared in Ayurveda because it is one of the most harmless and nourishing animals on the planet, it never harms anyone. The cow has four stomachs and undergoes a special digestive process to break down the tough and coarse food it eats, anything that comes from the cow therefore it carries all the balancing qualities of this animal ( given the fact that this animal is living joyfully, happily and feeding on grass and not according to the western farm standards) the milk of a cow is very healing and ghee is the essence of the milk and therefore carries many many good qualities. Ghee is filled with Vitamins A, D and E. It contains Butyrate, an Essential Short-Chain Fatty Acid. It creates bile so it give our liver a break. Therefore Ghee has a quality to pull all the bad fats and emotions that are stuck in our cells, out of our bodies and detoxify.

Protein Balance: For thousands of years the combination of rice and beans has been a part of the old traditions, and for good reason. According to Doctor Douillrard "You have probably heard the term complete protein, but let’s take a minute to really understand what that means. There are 20 amino acids that combine with one another to make the proteins the body needs. Ten of them, the body can synthesize on its own. The other ten, called essential amino acids, the body does not make, meaning we must get it from our foods. Animal proteins are “complete” in that they contain all ten essential amino acids, but plant foods need to be combined to make a complete protein. Rice, like most grains, is very low in the amino acid lysine. As a result, if you live on grains alone, you will likely become protein deficient. Legumes and lentils, on the other hand, have lots of lysine, but they are generally low in methionine, tryptophan and cystine. Fortunately, grains are high in these three amino acids. So the marriage of rice and beans, as found in kitchari, has been providing the ten essential amino acids and making complete proteins for cultures around the world for thousands of years. For cultures that have subsisted on a plant-based diet, this marriage is often what allows their diet to be nutritionally sustainable."

In India, kitchari is often the first food for babies, not only because it is so easy to digest, it also heals and soothes the intestinal wall. There is many diffent variations and ways to make Kitchari, so I am sharing my personal to go version with you here. Enjoy!

Paras' basic kitchari

2 cups yellow mung dal beans (organic is better, you can find this at Moksha Brampton)

1 cup white basmati rice ( I use Saleem Caravan, made in india rice, found in middle eastern grocery stores, but, if you can't find it, get organic long grain version)

2 tablespoons ghee (Use Grass fed Ghee, I make my ghee at home & you can find it also at the studio)

2 teaspoons each black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and black pepper

1 teaspoon each cumin powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and cinnamon specially in winter

3 green cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 bay leaves

2–4 cups of chopped, organic, seasonal vegetables such as spinach, carrots, celery, kale, sweet potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower (avoid nightshades)

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

A few rose flower pedals to dress (optional, for pitta and specially in the summer)

Almond slices (optional)

Rinse the mung dal beans and rice together, strain them five times, or until the water runs clear. Heat the ghee in a large pot. Add all the seeds and toast until the mustard seeds pop. Add the bay leaves and powdered spices, and mix together. Stir in the rice and beans. Add 8 cups of water, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and chopped vegetables. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook at least one hour, until the beans and rice are soft and the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency. Serve warm with fresh cilantro on top, add almonds or rose flower pedals if desired.

You can make the same recipe in a crock pot and cook it for a long long time. This is specially great for digestion and you can even use a personalized crock pot to make a freshly made individual meal for yourself at work or when occupied with other projects.

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© 2021 by Paras Moghtader.