In America, downing a hearty grain dish would not be called fasting. But in India kitchari - a soupy porridge made from rice and mung beans, lightly spiced with ginger, cilantro, and other spices - is considered a fasting food and is used to purify digestion and cleanse systemic toxins.
Ayurvedic physicians often prescribe a kitchari diet before, during, and after Pancha karma, a rejuvenative treatment that cleanses toxins stored in bodily tissues as it restores systemic balance. Kitchari provides solid nourishment while allowing the body to devote energy to healing. You can safely subsist on kitchari anytime in order to build vitality and strength as it helps balance all three doshas. For restless vata, the warm soup is grounding; for fiery pitta, its spices are calming; and for chilly kapha, it provides healing warmth.
Ayurveda believes that all healing begins with the digestive tract, and kitchari can give it a much-needed rest from constantly processing different foods while providing essential nutrients. The blend of rice and split mung beans or red lentils offers an array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Its mixture of spices is believed to kindle the digestive fire, the Ayurvedic description for your innate digestive power, which can be weakened by poor food combinations.
Kitchari tastes like a cross between a creamy rice cereal and a light dal, or lentil soup. If it is a cold, blustery day or you are feeling under the weather, a steaming bowl of this classic Indian comfort food can both warm up your bones and restore sagging energy.
This recipe serves 4 comfortably.
1 cup split yellow mung beans or red lentils
2 cups basmati rice
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (your preference)
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin or whole cumin seeds
tsp. fennel seeds
tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground basil leaf (optional)
1/3 tsp. asafetida (Hing)
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. salt (to taste)
2 Tbsp. of Ghee (clarified butter) for lightly frying
First, rinse the split yellow mung beans or red lentils thoroughly (3-4 times). Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Then turn down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes (or until the beans break up). Add more water if you would like a soupier consistency.
Rinse thoroughly 2 cups of basmati rice and add to the beans. You may now add 2-3 cups of assorted cut vegetables. Choose vegetables according to what is seasonal in your area and to support your dosha - vata, pitta or kapha. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring regularly, while you work on the next step.
In a fry pan melt ghee (clarified butter) over medium flame and add only the seasoning seeds first (cumin and fennel). Let cook until light brown before adding the rest of the spices, then let cook for 1 minute or until brown. Add this to the beans and rice. Add salt at the end (salt to taste - you may want more than the recipe calls for). The consistency should be like a thick soup. (Add water if you need to.)
Cook for another 5-15 minutes, stirring regularly. Garnish with fresh grated ginger and/or cilantro if you like.
Hari Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
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