“Late last night, I wrote an email to [more than] 250 employees letting them know that we were we shutting down our restaurants and switching to take-out only. And then I sat down and ate a simple bowl of rice and daal,” Chai Pani owner Meherwan Irani told us when we reached out to him last week, asking for a recipe Atlantans could make at home while social distancing. “It was the first thing my mom cooked in the Chai Pani kitchen when we first opened almost 11 years ago. Back then, we were in the depths of the worst recession that our country had seen in a generation. Staring into that bowl I reminded myself that this too will pass. Everything we’re doing right now, while extremely hard in the moment, will ensure that we will make it through this. And when things get better as they inevitably will, we’ll rebuild, repair, recover, and renew.”
Khichdi—an Indian comfort food dish—is “simple, warming, and delicious,” Irani says. “It comforts children, grown-ups, the elderly, and especially the worried.”
He shares his “very basic” recipe below, noting that cooks can feel free to add any chopped vegetables (such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, beans, or peas) and additional spices (such as coriander, chili powder, and garam masala) to enhance the dish.
½ cups short grain rice
½ cups moong daal (split yellow mung)
5 tbsp ghee (or 3 tbsp any high-heat oil such as sunflower, peanut, or even coconut)
1 tsp cumin seeds (substitute 1 tsp cumin powder if you don’t have seeds)
1 green chili, diced
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp salt
½ head cilantro, chopped
½ lime, juiced
Preparing the grains
Combine the rice and daal in a medium sized bowl. Wash 2-3 times, draining water each time. Add enough water to cover, soak for at least one hour.
Heat 3 tbsp of the ghee (or oil) in a heavy bottomed, large pot. While ghee is heating, drain the water off of the soaked rice and daal. Once hot, turn the heat to medium. Add the cumin seeds and let them sputter and slightly brown. (If you’re using cumin powder rather than seeds, don’t add just yet.) Add the chopped green chili and stir, cooking for a few seconds. Add the turmeric along with the drained rice and daal. If you’re using cumin powder, add now. Mix well.
Add 5 ½ cups of water and the salt. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat to medium. Cook, mixing every 5-10 minutes, for 35 minutes or until the rice is soft and the daal is broken down.
Once cooked, add the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and the 2 remaining tablespoons of ghee (vegans should skip the extra ghee). Mix in well. Serve piping hot with yogurt, pickles, and papadum or naan bread. Serves 4.