Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

My experiments with food: Bhuna Khichuri

Last night I experimented with one of the very typical Bengali dishes - Bhuna Khichuri. It is also my favourite vegetarian dish. Khichdi is a popular dish all across India. I know Kadhi Khichdi is a rage in Maharashtra. But like every other pan-Indian phenomena, every region has developed its own variant. In Bengal it has morphed from a simple, healthy, easily digestible, good-for-all Khichdi to Bhuna Khichuri, the ultimate in rich, hard to digest, eat-at-your-own-risk food. I can write a volume on how Bengalis never seem to be able to make simple, healthy food. We cook on the premise that if it doesn't make you sweat when cooking and doesn't make you burn when eating then it ain't food. In fact, Shukto seems to be the only Bengali dish the uninitiated can have without risking repeated visits to the toilet. However, I am digressing.
This experiment did not turn out very well. I am not used to cooking very rich food. I habitually hold back on adding too much oil or spices. And I am always afraid of over cooking. These attributes are definitely not what you want when cooking Bhuna Kichuri. To start off, I roasted the dal a little too much. That by itself, would not have made much of a difference. But then, I used too little oil which made the rice stick to the bottom of the cooker and burnt some of it. I had used very little garam masala and the burnt rice spoiled the aroma. To crown it all, I burnt my thumb on the steam rising from the roasted dal. All in all, a very disappointing result. I haven't lost heart though. I am going to make Bhuna Khichuri again and again till I perfect it. Here is the recipe.

Recipe: Bhuna Khichuri

Ingredients (serves 1):
  1. Moong dal - 1/4 cup
  2. Rice - 1/2 cup
  3. Refined oil - as oily as you want it. (ghee is used traditionally, risk it if you want to)
  4. Onions - 2
  5. Green chillies - as hot you want to make it
  6. Ginger - a pinch
  7. Garam masala - ?? (how would I know, I used too little remember)
  8. Couple of whole red chilies .
  9. Haldi - 1/4 teaspoon.
  1. Dry roast the dal uniformly till they are light brown.
  2. Soak it in water for some time to soften it. Take care you don't burn your thumb in the steam. Wash dal when it gets cold.
  3. Wash and clean the rice.
  4. Heat the oil (or ghee if you were brave enough to use it) in a pressure cooker.
  5. Add the red chilies.
  6. Cut the onions, green chilies and ginger and add them to the oil.
  7. Fry till the onion turns light brown.
  8. Add the dal and the rice and stir so that all of it is uniformly fried. Take care that you don't over fry it. Stop frying just before it starts turning light brown.
  9. Add water. Don't flood the rice. Just add enough so that the level of water is about 1 cm above the level of rice and dal.
  10. Add the haldi for colour.
  11. Add salt to taste.
  12. Close the pressure cooker lid and let it cook.
  13. Take the cooker down from the fire after 3 whistles. Let it cool before opening it.
About Khichdi/Khichuri
Khichdi is one of the very few Indian culinary dishes which developed indigenously in India rather than being brought over by armies, traders or monks from other parts of the world. In Bengali tradition it is customary to cook khichuri during rainy days. It is also traditional in Bengal to cook khichuri as lunch at most of the popular pujas. Non-vegetarian versions of Khichdi are also popular. Prawn khichdi is popular in Maharashtra, while mutton khichuri is popular in Bengal. This dish has been exported all over the world in many forms - Kushari (the Arab equivalent), Congee (a type of rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries), Kedgeree (the Anglo-Indian version), etc. The Wikipedia entry for Khichdi is here.


  1. And I always thought Bengali food=bland ! :)

  2. I like the food but i think that you should put a picture with it too.But the food was GREAT!!!!!