During the same time (in 2017) when khichdi (or khichri) was trending around discussions of the national dish of India (of course we don't have a designated national dish given the sheer diversity of our culinary landscape), I was under the weather in Delhi. I'm not sure whether it was all the online buzz around khichdi or just the gentle persuasion of the room service order taker at the Lemon Tree Premier in Aerocity. But I ordered the dish twice during a two night stay. That's all I needed to be convinced about the 'comfort food' credentials of this dish.
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If you look up the culinary history books, you're likely to find mentions of khichdi in the travel notes of Moroccan explorer Ibn Batuta from the 14th century. There's also a 16th century recipe from Emperor Akbar's court with seven variations. The concept of rice and dal cooked with mild flavours in India goes back even further, all the way to Greek Seleucus' India campaign (305-303 BC) where he mentions that cooking rice with pulses was popular in India. Almost every region India has its own version of khichdi. In Tamil Nadu it's arisi paruppu sadham and akki bele bath is also popular in some regions of Karnataka.
Like most kids who grew up in South India, the first 'solid food' that I enjoyed was a simple version of rice mixed with dal (mostly tur dal) and a dollop of ghee. In my case I still haven't outgrown this meal. I still eat this at least once a week and also occasionally add some rasam to this. I was thrilled to find this dish on a kids menu at the Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai more than a decade ago. While that may be too mild for most adults, the version that you get in most homes is packed with more flavours but the same nutritional values.
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Just like the khichdi this is a dish that is usually served as a comfort food especially when you're unwell or down with a fever. The sheer simplicity and uncomplicated flavours can lift your spirits when you're confined to your house or room. It also works as a quick fix meal. A few weeks ago I sampled a tasty version of this dish at a restaurant near Coimbatore. It was spot on. The Arisi Paruppu Sadham is a popular dish in and around this city, in the erstwhile Kongunad region of Tamil Nadu where the Chera dynasty once ruled. This region has its distinct culinary identity within the rich culinary tapestry of Tamil Nadu. The version here is not as mushy as the Akki Bele Bath I've tried in Karnataka. It's very simple to make and is guaranteed to comfort you. Try this with appalam/happala (papad), pickle or even a bowl of curd.
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Arisi Paruppu Sadham Or Akki Bele Bath Recipe:
• 1 Cup Rice
• ¼ Cup Toor Dal
• 1 Onion sliced
• 1 tomato chopped
• 4 Garlic cloves Finely chopped
• ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
• 1 tsp Sambar Powder
• Salt as required
• 3 cups Water
• 2 tbsp Ghee
• 1 tsp Mustard seeds
• 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
• 2 Red Chilli
• 1 Green chili slit(optional)
• Pinch of Asafoetida
• 1 sprig Curry leaves
Wash the rice and dal thoroughly.
Add fresh water and soak the rice and dal for 30 minutes. Drain the water from soaked rice and dal. Keep it aside.
Heat ghee in a pressure pan. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and allow it to splutter.
Then, add the red chili, green chili, curry leaves, asafoetida and stir.
Add sliced onions and sauté the onions till translucent.
Add chopped tomatoes and then add turmeric powder, sambar powder and stir well.
Add 3 cups of water along with salt and mix well.
Once the water boils add the soaked, drained rice and dal.
Pressure cook it. Allow the rice & dal to get cooked (wait for 3 whistles).
Stir gently and drizzle some ghee on the paruppu sadham before you serve it hot.