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With Khichdi soon to be declared as the country’s superfood and to be promoted as ‘brand India food’ during the World Food India 2017, Bengalis will have yet another dish to celebrate their gourmet adventures. Needless to say, Bengal’s khichudi has always been different from those of North India. For Bengal, it is not just the bland dish for recuperating patients, but happens to be the ultimate ‘comfort food’ occupying an important place in Bengali festivals and religious occasions where bhog er khichudi becomes the staple food. No other community in India perhaps experimented with this simple dish as much as Bengalis did, from adding fish, mutton or even fruits to it!

Curative virtues of khichudi can be traced to ancient Ayurvedic texts. Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan traveller who visited India in the 14th century, wrote, “Munj is boiled with rice, then buttered and eaten. This is what they call Kishri, and on this they breakfast every day.” Mughals emperors were also struck by this wonderful dish. In Ain-i-Akbari, Abul Fazl mentions several versions of the khichdi prepared in the imperial kitchen, including Akbar’s penchant for khichdi prepared with equal measurements of rice, lentils, and ghee. Jahangir however loved it with ghee, pistachios, raisins and spices.

The Aamish bhog khichudi that made its way into different bonedi barir Durga puja, was perhaps influenced by Nizams of Hyderabad. Hyderabad’s illustrious keeme ki khichdi — a spice-laden mix of rice, lentils and minced meat. This is traditionally paired with the khatta, a thin, sour soup of sorts, made with tamarind, onions, chilies and tempered with cumin. Karnataka’s feted bisi bele huli anna is a fiery mix of rice, lentils, and a medley of seasonal vegetables — cooked with tamarind, a host of fresh ground spices like cardamom, cloves, coriander cumin, fenugreek, dried coconut, byadgi chilies and kapok buds which give it a distinct flavour. It is finished off with unsparing drizzles of fragrant ghee.