Mung Bean Kitchari

I have been interested in trying kitchari for a long time. Kitchari is a traditional Indian food, often used in Ayurvedic practices and fasts.

Now, let me be clear about one thing: I do not believe in fasting or any other crash diet type of program for weight loss purposes. These are unhealthy and unsustainable, and you do more damage to your body with them than anything else. However, I do believe in the healing and cleansing properties of foods, and don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to give your digestive system a cleansing meal once in a while — as long as you’re still eating a regular and healthy amount of food.

Now that that’s out of the way…

According to Ayurvedic medicine, this simple soup is very easily digested and is excellent for your system, especially if you are recovering from an illness or injury. The protein and fibre from the beans and whole rice pack a lot of nutrition, but the soup is comforting and light. Doesn’t that sound perfect for a rainy day or a recovering body?

The traditional recipe calls for mung beans, so that’s what I tried here. However, you can substitute any other legume, and even use different grains like millet or barley (in fact, my Dad’s traditional Egyptian lentil soup is very similar to this recipe). The combinations are endless!

Most of the recipes I looked at before attempting my own said that the kitchari takes anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes to cook, but mine took forever… I’m not sure why. I ended up leaving it on low for about 2 hours while I did other things so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re in a rush.

To be honest, I can’t say I was totally blown away by this recipe. I liked the thickness of the soup, but without seasoning, it’s pretty bland. Then again, I prefer complex flavours and don’t usually eat foods plain, so this might be a hit with people who enjoy milder dishes. It was also tastier the next day, reheated with a bit of cayenne pepper and salt. I do think I will make it again even though it wasn’t a favourite, though!

Mung Bean Kitchari

3/4 cup of mung beans
1/2 cup brown rice
4 to 8 cups water, depending on how thick or liquid you want your soup to be and how absorbent your rice and beans are
1 tbsp olive oil
optional: salt and pepper, a small handful of fresh parsley and/or 1 tbsp plain yoghurt

1. Rinse the beans and rice under cold water to remove any impurities before cooking. Transfer them to the pot you will be cooking in, and add the water and yoghurt, if desired. Allow the beans and rice to soak for as long as you can — the longer you soak them, the more easily digestible they become.  Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can skip this step.

2. When you are ready to cook the soup, bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and stir the soup to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Then cover the pot and allow the contents to simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the beans are tender (they will split during the cooking process). Try to avoid lifting the lid as the soup cooks to keep the steam in — I am notoriously bad at resisting this, and things always work out in the end, but it’s a good tip.

3. Remove from heat, add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste, or leave it plain for maximum benefits. Serve with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.

NOTE: this will make a ginormous batch of kitchari, especially if you live alone, so adjust the quantities to suit the number of people you cook for (I would recommend only using 1/3 of the quantities listed for a one-person batch of kitchari).

Thick and comforting kitchari.

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