Saturday, 8 November 2014


The other day my friend Farah mentioned the dish while we were chatting online. I do not remember the context any more but the name of the dish stayed with me. It was something I have never tasted. I also remember her say that the dish is especially cooked during the month of Muharram. Before I could ask for the recipe she said she was stepping out and would catch up later.

I mulled over the idea for a while and then turned to Google. Google is so much like that uncle who knows everything about everything and is always there to help in your hour of need. Anyway, my research told me that Khichda is a richer version of khichdi, rice, lentils and meat cooked together with loads of herbs and spices. The dish is of Hyderabadi origin. Albeit there are regional variations.  But again there were versions which used broken wheat. I was all the more confused when I browsed through recipes, the images only made the confusion worse. Some looked mushy, others looked like a pilaf.

I decided to talk to Rehmaan bhai who is the manager at my cousin's garments factory. A young guy, very polite and a wonderful cook. Now he told me that the Calcutta version of the Khichda had no meat at all. It was like biryani with lentils sans meat. More confusion. I didn't like the sound of no meat, so I went ahead with his skeleton of a recipe (he was just giving me an idea) but decided to add meat anyway. Since, I am off red meat for a while it had to be chicken, though you could always make the dish with mutton (goat meat or lamb, or even beef if you like). Also my version is a a little mushy. But not soggy. And it is delicious. Spicy, meaty, warm - a one pot meal to die for.

I made it for the family yesterday and they polished off the entire pot.


Long Grain Rice: 300 g
Split and skinned Bengal gram (Chana Dal): 100g
Split and skinned pigeon peas (Arhad Dal): 100g
Chicken : 750 g
Finely chopped onions - 1 cup packed
Mince garlic -
Minced ginger -
Finely chopped Coriander/cilantro leaves - 1/2 cup
Finely chopped Mint leaves - 1/4 cup
Curd : 100 g
Juice of 1 lime
Turmeric powder - 1 tbsp
Red chili powder - 1 tbsp
Finely chopped green chilies - 2-3 tbsp
Cumin powder - 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder - 1.5 tbsp
Garam masala powder - 1.5 tsp (see recipe)
A pinch of saffron soaked in a few tablespoons of milk
Salt to taste
Mustard oil - 1/4 cup
Ghee - 1/4 cup
Birista (caramelised onions) and cilantro leaves for garnish

For the garam masala 

Ingredients (makes about 3 tbsp, you'll only need 1 tsp)

Green cardamom seeds- 1 tsp
Black cardamom  - 4 (only seeds)
Cloves - 6
Cinnamon sticks - 2-3 inches
Mace threads - 1 tbsp
Caraway seeds - 1 tsp
Black peppercorns - 1.5 tsp
Nutmeg powder - 1/4 tsp

Dry roast all the spices except nutmeg and grind to a fine powder. Stir in the nutmeg.


Soak the lentils in water overnight or for at least 3-4 hours .

Soak the rice in water for an hour. Drain the rice and lentils and spread them out to dry out for a while.

Cook the lentils and rice together in about 4 cups of water, until soft but not soggy. The lentils should remain whole.

In a heavy bottomed pan heat the mustard oil and ghee together. Add the onions and fry until deep golden.

Add the minced garlic and ginger and fry for a few more minutes.

Now add the chopped cilantro, mint and green chilies and fry.

Add the powdered spices and fry until oil separates. Add the chicken and fry till oil separates again. Add salt, cover and cook until chicken is almost tender.

Remove cover and cook for another few minutes that is until the liquids reduce.

Whisk the curd and lime juice together and add it to the meat. Also add the saffron soaked in milk. Mix well.

Now add the cooked rice and lentil mix to the meat and mix well. Once the rice and lentil soak up all the liquids, adjust seasoning, add the birista and a drizzle of ghee and remove from heat.

Serve hot with some onion salad and raita.

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