My friend Rachel is currently living in Kenya, but she was working in Bangladesh in 2007 when Cyclone Sidr hit. Bangladesh is vulnerable to these kinds of natural disasters, both because of the quality of construction in the country and its particular geography. The country effectively dissolves into the Bay of Bengal and as the CIA World Factbook puts it, “much of the country [is] routinely inundated during the summer monsoon season."
The morning after the storm, she said, "when we woke up, everything was quiet and we had kitchari for breakfast. It was almost chilly, probably like 65° Fahrenheit and it was one of the only times in Bangladesh I wore a jacket."
Kitchari is “cold weather” breakfast food, she said. The winter day we made it together here in California was also on the cool side, but we had our kitchari as a midday meal. It’s your classic rice and beans dish, but with the flavors of southern Asia. The recipes we looked at said you could add vegetables if you want, so we threw in some green beans I had left in the freezer from our CSA share last summer.
The original recipe we used has disappeared off the internet, but this one from Family Fresh Cooking is very similar.
Serves a crowd (leftovers are delicious!)
1 cup Basmati rice
1 cup yellow lentils
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter (ghee is traditional)
1 tablespoon dry ginger
1 ½ tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper as needed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Bring your water to a boil in a large pot.
While the water is heating up, rinse your lentils and rice. I’m a big fan of filling a medium-sized bowl with water, putting my rice (and in this case the lentils too) into the bowls and then swirling them around around with my fingers. Dump out the water and then repeat until the water runs clear.
Add the rice and lentils to the boiling water and then reduce the heat and cover. Cook on low for about 30 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
In a frying pan melt your butter and then stir your spices into the butter. Cook over medium-low until fragrant.
Once the rice and lentils are ready, add the butter and spice mixture to the pot and stir to combine. This is when I added my cooked green beans. Serve the kitchari with a large pinch of chopped cilantro for color and fresh flavor.