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Yummy Kicharee

By Kirpal Singh, Ph.D

“Kicharee” is a Punjabi word that means “mixture.”  In India it is commonly used to describe any number of things randomly thrown together, including people, ingredients or circumstances.  But in our 3HO lifestyle “kicharee” refers to a magical mixture of rice, beans, vegetables and spices based on Yogi Bhajan’s simple recipe for mung beans and rice.  So let’s understand how and why the Yogi gave us this recipe and why he considered it the most complete food, easy to digest (pre-digested in his words) and one of the most therapeutic foods in the Ayurvedic system of healing.

Magic Mung Beans

The basic recipe is simple:

•1 cup of Basmati rice

•½ to 1 cup of mung beans

•1 cup of diced onions

•1 to 2 cups of cut vegetables

•1 to 2 tablespoons of shortening – such as almond oil, ghee or olive oil

•Salt and spices to taste, including but not limited to: turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, red and black pepper, soy sauce and or Braggs and sea salt

•9 to 10 cups of water

•Other possible ingredients may include vegetable broth, lemon (including skin), kelp, mint, parsley

Throw it all in a pot and boil until soft.  Or, sauté the onions and spices into a masala and add after the rice and beans are cooked.  Or, cook the beans, vegetables and spices first and add the rice last. The finished product is a soupy, mildly spicy and a yummy tasty treat. Mung beans and rice may be served plain or accompanied by yoghurt or cheese or pieces of avocado.

At the Conscious Cookery in Denver we used to call it Bhajan’s Banquet and serve it with melted cheese on top.  It was one of our most popular dishes. When I moved to India I was looking forward to sampling it at their local restaurants. I was disappointed.  Nobody had even heard of it.  When I described it they said, “Oh that’s just a kitcharee.  It is not restaurant food.”  Well I finally did find it, in hospitals.  In fact, when we had to spend some time at a hospital, kitcharee was the only food available.  It was explained to me that it was the best food for healing and it is easily digested.  It turns out that the Ayurvedic sciences are well integrated into India’s healthcare systems.

Yogijii drew on his vast knowledge of Ayurveda to give us his recipe for mung beans and rice. He often recommended it as a mono diet for forty days of cleansing, detoxification and healing. The diet changes the chemistry of the blood, balances the energies in the organs and tissues and relieves the chronic stress of dietary excess or deficiency.  It energizes the body, clears the mind and is completely satisfying.  What could be better than that?  The spice combination restores the vitality of the digestive system, the Ayurvedic agni, the heat and fire that digests our food.  Ayurvedic practitioners know that the health of the entire body is dependent on our digestion.

Besides hospitals, the only other times in India that I found kicharee served was at ashrams. From time immemorial practicing yogis have eaten this simple diet to enhance their spiritual practice. It provides a perfect balance of easily digested proteins and complex carbohydrates that sustains the body while allowing deep meditation and detoxification.  Yogiji gave it as the basic diet for our Summer and Winter Solstices to compliment the powerful spiritual cleansing of the Tantric Yoga.  Whether you choose kicharee as a tasty meal or use it as a cleansing mono diet, it is a close as you can get to the perfect food.

Kirpal Singh Khalsa served as director of Guru Ram Das Ashram, Boulder, from 1972 – 1992. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado and taught in the Sociology Department from 1980 to 1992. From 1992 – 2003 he served as Academic Director for Sikh Dharma Education International and helped found Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India. He currently lives with the Sikh community in Espanola, NM.