An Ode to Kitchari: Ayurveda’s Grossest-Looking, Best-Healing Miracle Food.

Via on Apr 17, 2012
Source: Marthe Weyandt

Recently, I signed up for a seven-day at-home Ayurvedic spring cleanse, sponsored by the Himalayan Institute.

(The program is free-of-cost and available online until May 15.)

The cleanse included a day-to-day plan of action, including recipes for calming, healing foods, digestive teas and specialized daily yoga and meditation practices.

It had been a long winter and my digestion had become as rusty as an Alaskan pipeline.

Desperate times, as they say, call for desperate measures.

My kickstart would include a hearty helping of kitchari, an Ayurvedic ‘comfort food’ fashioned from brown rice, mung beans and spices. Kitchari is an easily prepared, easily digestible, and nutrient-rich ‘porridge,’ which can also act as a medicine to gently coax the body back into a more balanced state of being.

I was a neophyte to this concoction. We had never talked, texted or even Facebooked.

For the next week, kitchari and I were gonna be BFFs, I thought—as close as Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie circa ’07.

Oh no, I thought. I can’t even pronounce this stuff. How was I gonna eat it?

Ki-tcher-eee?

Kit-char-eee?

Does it rhyme with Atari? Bob Marley?

Gnarly?

More importantly: would I emerge unscathed from ingesting so large a quantity of mung beans?

***************************************
I used the recipe provided by the Himalayan Institute, available on the Himalayan Institute’s webpage and provided below:

Ingredients

1 cup basmati rice

½ cup organic whole or split mung beans (bulk section of the health food store). These need to be soaked for at least three hours before cooking.

4-6 cups of water

2 T ghee (clarified butter). An organic brand will be available at the health food store

1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 pinches hing (asafetida)

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 stick of kombu (seaweed). Also available at the health food store. You can substitute wakame if need be. You just need a little—one “leaf” per pot of soup.

½ teaspoon of sea salt

½ teaspoon of turmeric

c
1 – 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional)

Preparation: 
This recipe makes 4 servings. 
Wash rice and mung and soak for three hours or overnight. Drain soak water. In a saucepan warm the ghee. Add the ginger, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and sauté for one to two minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop and the aroma of the herbs is released. Add rice and mung beans and sauté for another couple of minutes. Then add 4-6 cups of water and bring this to a boil. Add the salt, powdered spices and seaweed once the kitchari has come to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until it is tender (approx. 30-45 minutes). If you are adding vegetables to your kitchari, add the longer cooking vegetables such as carrots and beets halfway through the cooking. Add the vegetables that cook faster such as leafy greens near the end. If you need to add more water you can. It should be the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. Garnish with fresh cilantro and add salt to taste. You can put a little chutney in to make it tasty. You can also use one of the chutney recipes to add flavor to your kitchari.

******************************

I prepared a pot on the first day.

Ugh, I thought as I extracted the steaming pot from the stove on Cleansing Day #1.

So gross-looking.

To add insult to injury, the bag of mung beans were staring me down from on the counter, like little eyeballs. Ewww, they’re probably laughing, I surmised.

This is gonna be a long week, I reckoned. I pinned my nostrils and took a bite.

To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. I thought it could use a little more salt. And a pinch more turmeric.

Then my life changed.

It didn’t take long for me to come around.

By dinnertime, I was hooked.

What can I say? I didn’t really have much choice in the matter after all.

And the darn stuff can be pretty addictive.

Remember the law of diminishing marginal utility in economics? Have you ever eaten chocolate chip ice cream?

The first bite is glorious.

The one-thousandth bite?

Not so much.

Kitchari consumption defies the laws of the universe. It is good from beginning to end. One also seems never to get full.

Go figure.

And what do the doctors say?

Kitchari fasting provides the body with a mono-diet. By limiting the amount of foods that are consumed, only a certain number of digestive enzymes are produced, affording the digestive system a much-needed respite. When ghee or coconut oil is used, it can also be a source of healthy saturated fats.

Turmeric and ginger have potent anti-inflammatory properties. (They’re like dental floss for the brain.) Some of the other spices possess beneficial digestive properties. Mung beans are believed to be powerful blood purifiers.

A few weeks later, I am still eating kitchari a few days per week, buying in bulk at a local Indian grocery store. It is easy to prepare and cost-effective.

Maybe I will start a fast food restaurant…and serve only kitchari in its myriad incarnations.

Bon appetit!

~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

About Marthe Weyandt

Marthe Weyandt is a Pittsburgh-based yoga instructor and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and spending time in the great outdoors. She is currently learning to play guitar, albeit badly and at frequencies only dogs can hear. She believes in the power of the word, creatively and lovingly rendered, to create positive change in the world. She has a Bachelor’s in English and Religion from Dickinson College and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University. She spent two years as an English instructor with the United States Peace Corps in Madagascar. Check out some of her other work here.

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28 Responses to “An Ode to Kitchari: Ayurveda’s Grossest-Looking, Best-Healing Miracle Food.”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  2. Brian says:

    For those who cannot abide kitchari with the same relish, steamed basmati rice topped with the vegetables recommended by Dr. Blossom sauteed in ghee with the same spice mix may be a more appetizing diet during the cleanse.

  3. Jill Barth says:

    Thanks, learned something here!

  4. @kristy3m says:

    Cool post. After the week i feel light, full of energy, relaxed and smart. :) i like the "dental floss for the brain" analogy :)

  5. Andrew says:

    Just to let everyone know, Doctor Blossom worked with Yoga International Magazine to provide all of the content for the cleanse. You can find more information on Ayurvedic medicine, cleansing, recipes and even yoga on http://www.doctorblossom.com.

  6. ValCarruthers says:

    Being a longtime kitchari fan, I really enjoyed this, Marthe. It's one of the most versatile dishes out there and a great one to make for a potluck, being suitable for all constitutions.

  7. Marthe, thanks for sharing this recipe. I've featured on Elephant FB page: https://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Cheers,
    Jeannie Page

  8. Marthe says:

    Thanks, Val. I think I'm going to be making a lot more of it!

  9. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the brand new Elephant Food Homepage.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Please "like" Elephant Food on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

  10. Rajni Tripathi says:

    :) Adding in a bit of black pepper gives it a nice taste too. Love this stuff!

  11. Oooh, I am simultaneously excited to try this and frightened of it!! Not a big fan of asofetida..is it crucial to the recipe in terms of health/healing benefits or could I omit it?

    • Marthe says:

      Hi Kate–
      My asofetida is actually packed up in one of several moving boxes, so I had to omit it! (From what I understand, asofetida 'neutralizes' the gaseous effect of the beans! It's certainly TMI territory, but interesting…)

  12. JENNIFER says:

    okay so I am really on the fence I do love kitchari. But no one seems to mention constipation, bloating or any other discomforts it seems like all this could be so binding especially if on for an extended period of time. just sayin'- is it tooo unmentionable?

  13. mulavi says:

    I have been eating kitchari for the past month and it has helped greatly. Yesterday, I saw my massage therapist for a zero balancing session (I also get a massage once every two weeks or so and I stretch daily and do self-massage) and my massage therapist noticed a significant difference in my muscle tone. The spasms in my back, manifested as knots, are melting away. I eat kitchari (1/4 cup mung daal and 1/4 cup basmati rice) twice a day with broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower spiced with 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, cumin seeds and 1/8 teaspoon of hing (this is overpowering – first time I used 1/2 teaspoon and it could barely eat it) . I also drink a cup of warm water and triphala (helps with constipation bought from Banyan Botanicals) once or twice a day (first thing in the morning and usually sometime in the afternoon or evening at least half an hour before a meal or before I go to bed). I eat oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts and honey for breakfast. This diet amounts to around 1500 calories. I fill the rest of my diet with fruit, vegetables and sometimes hummus. My dosha is pitta and this diet along with reductions in alcohol and caffeine have lead to better sleep, an increase in energy and lost weight (7 lbs. in the past month). It's been a year in the making (with kitchari the last step – only found out about it a month ago), but I am finally able to eat right, stretch, self-massage, exercise and sleep well – all in the same day. At times, I had the energy (or attention span) to do just a one or a few of these a day, but now it's all coming together. It takes time but just do what you can. After a while, you'll find yourself able to incorporate more of these changes. If I had to advise someone on what aspect to attempt to change first I would say start eating kitchari and slowly incorporate the other changes. For me exercise was last on my list because of the back pain I would get even from walking. I still do not walk enough because I'm still dealing with pain and discomfort but for now yoga (joint freeing exercises and basic asanas) is now my exercise.

  14. lauraplumb says:

    Odes to Kichari, indeed! Thank you, beloved.

  15. [...] Kitchari…the traditional dish of Ayurveda made of mung beans, rice, ghee and [...]

  16. [...] It’s a complete protein, heals digestive distress, balances the metabolism, cleans your liver, assists in healthy weight loss and is a breeze to make! If you can make oatmeal, you can make Kitchari. [...]

  17. Mickie says:

    I want to try the Kitchari cleanse. However, I don't know how much to it eat and/or if anything else is eaten on a daily basis?

  18. [...] I consulted the various recipes I had found around the internets (that link being one of them), then I cracked open my favorite Indian cookbook from “the food [...]

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  20. Miccha says:

    I think eating kitchari 1x a day will cause constipation, also doesnt all these spices have a diruetic effect

  21. StevensVox says:

    I am on day 2 of my cleanse, and I could not abide the Kitchari for breakfast, too pungent. Then lunch too much texture.
    SO when I got home I used my Immersion Blender and pureed it, and that was the ticket.
    Now, I just finished my Kitchari Lunch with a Cilantro Chutney and a third of an avacodo and I full nice and sated.

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