What would be India's national dish? More importantly, can a country like ours, with its sundry eating habits, even have a dish that would represent all? Most of us would think that it's a tough ask. But, if you study our varied cuisines closely, you will find that there is one preparation that unites all our diverse food cultures. And this is Khichdi.
In its most basic form, Khichdi is a preparation of rice and lentils - two ingredients that are staples in all corners of our country. The dish is seen in various avatars - Pongal in the south, Khichuri in West Bengal and of course, the standard Dal Khichdi that can be found at most north Indian restaurants. Khichda, a dish popular among the Bohra Muslim community, is another preparation that bears a stark resemblance to Khichdi. This Economic Times article explores more about the various interpretations of Khichdi in India.
Khichdi has always been popular - in fact, it is even seen in European cuisines as Kedgeree, a breakfast preparation that uses curried fish and boiled eggs. It may be a stark contrast to the mostly-vegetarian versions of Khichdi that we are used to, but like all other variations, the basic ingredients are the same - rice and lentils. Kedgeree can be traced as far back as to the 18th century - here's a recipe taken from a cookbook that was written in sometime in the 1790s.
Khichdi in India is ancient. Ibn Batuta, the Muslim traveller and scholar who visited India in the 14th century wrote about how the inhabitants ate mung boiled with rice. There's also an Akbar-Birbal story around this dish.
With its history and its pan-Indian presence, Khichdi can truly lay claim to being India's national dish.
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