A time comes in life when the best meals are simple. In the competition for the best comfort food the four Semi Finalists were Rajma Chawal, Kadi Chawal, Khichadi and Curd Rice.
After a very close fight the Finalists were Vegetable Khichadi and Curd Rice. The popular vote cast by Indians across the globe was surprisingly a tie. But to decide the winner the judges decided to call Curd Rice and Khichadi for a public debate to present their credentials and stake claim for the winners trophy. But before we get to that a quick introduction of the participants.
Curd Rice is the ultimate food for a South Indian and no meal is complete without it. Curd Rice is not just Rice & Curd mixed – but there is an art to making it. The rice is cooked a bit extra, you dont use long grained rice and when its still hot you mix cold thick curd to it and mash it with a ladle. Add a pinch of salt to taste and finish it up with a tadka of urad dal, mustard, curry leaves, Asafoetida and red chillies. (The Original Curd Rice is not a khichadi of too many things – its simple, it does not have pomegranates, cucumber, grapes etc). And voila you have a winner that is simple and soothing for a meal all day long 365 days a year.
The Khichadi is a balanced meal. While most people prefer a vanilla version of it when sick or battling a digestion problem, the Khichadi can be a thrilling wholesome meal on its own. Its another matter that given the numerous things you can mix in it, there is a famous proverb in Hindi called ” Khichadi Pakana” – which roughly means confusing and making a mess of things. But be rest assured there is nothing confusing or messy about a Khichadi – its God’s own food. (How to cook video at the end of Blog)
With this context lets start the debate with the first speaking slot going to the Khichadi.
Khichadi – I am the food of the Gods. I am the bhog that is served to Ma Durga and Kali. I am the staple food in every ashram. When you are sick you invariably decide to eat me. I am light on the stomach but at the same time nutritious. I am the bachelors easy to cook meal after a long day at work. I am versatile, I am healthy and tasty. I am best eaten with Papad, Pickle or Curd.
Curd Rice – I am the food of the common man on a hot summer day. I am also the last meal of a king after a sumptuous feast. I am cool and calming. I have been the favourite dish of many intellectuals like C.V.Raman, Ramanujam and Dr Radhakrishnan to name a few. Peek closer in a train during meal time and you may find millions enjoying me with a dash of a pickle. I am simple, easy to cook, tasty and healthy. I am also served in the temples – visit any S Indian temple on a hot summer day and you can be rest assured that the Prasad will be Curd Rice served on a small plantain leaf. I am best eaten with small home made mango pickle. (Vadu Manga)
Khichadi – I come in multiple versions. The plain Moong Dal khichadi, The Vegetable khichadi, Bajra khichadi, Sindhi style khichadi and the best of them all the Bengali masala Khichadi. I take many avatars – I can be a plain Jane or cooked with vegetables with lots of ghee. I was the staple meal for the great Ramakrishna and even today if you visit Belur Math you will be served a piping hot version. The great poet Rabindranath Tagore conceptualised many a song and poem after a hearty meal of Khichadi and papad. I am an international dish loved in many countries. The Spaniards have a modified version of me called Paella.The British took me to UK and created a modified version which they called as Kedgeree. I am as ancient as India – nobody knows when I was created.
The Greek king Seleucus during his campaign in India (305-303 BC), mentioned that rice with pulses is very popular among people of the Indian subcontinent. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta mentions kishri as a dish in India composed of rice and mung beans, during his stay around 1350. I was very popular with the Mughals. There is even a story about Birbal and me.
Curd Rice – I am the best meal for indigestion or diarrhoea because curd is a great source of probiotic. Curd is also a good source of protein. It is a good antioxidant and has high contents of calcium. The probiotics in curd helps improve immunity and makes the body capable of fighting diseases. Curd can be a stress-buster and can lift your mood. According to studies, probiotic bacteria and good fats, both found in curd, can help reduce stress. The reason it is often consumed at the end of the meal is because it helps digest the food better. Consuming curd rice helps to restore healthy microbial balance which, in turn, helps in better digestion.
Khichadi – Sorry to interrupt, but we are not debating on the benefit of Curd here, dear friend. Please come to the point.
Curd Rice – Well I was coming to that. You need to have some patience. Stay calm and cool, maybe you should have some curd rice.
Eating me gives you a sense of satisfaction, and contentment. It also makes one feel restful. Let me step back and explain to you the results of a study conducted at MIT.
The first ingredient in this process of creating a sense of satisfaction is Tryptophan, an essential amino acid. That is present in Curd. It is an essential amino acid meaning that it can’t be made by the body and must be taken through our diet.
The best way to reap the benefits of tryptophan is to combine complex carbohydrates with it. Extensive studies at MIT carried out by Richard Wurtman, M.D., showed that tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, could get into the brain only after sweet or starchy carbohydrates were eaten. The carb rich foods create production of insulin in the body that clears the competing amino acids from the blood stream so that brain can take up tryptophan. In absence of insulin the brain prefers the competing amino acids, so eating Tryptohan rich foods without the carbs doesn’t have the same impact that curd rice has.
So its the combination of Tryptophan containing curd and the carbs in the rice that creates the bliss we experience after eating curd rice!
Now you realise the scientific reason on why I create this immense feeling of satiation, contentment and happiness.
Khichadi – For someone who claims to be a simpleton thats a lot of ego I see in you Curd Rice. I am not just a mixture of rice and lentils but the source of carbohydrates, vitamins Calcium, dietary fibres, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. You can add different vegetables, and enhance my nutritional values and taste. I can be made mild with less spices. I am always easy on the stomach and intestines, making me an ideal meal for sick people. I am a nutritional meal, a perfect source of nourishment for babies, small kids and elderly people. I am part of the Ayurvedic diet. I have the ability to balance all three doshas – Vatta, Pitta and Kapha. Apart from calming the digestive system along with detoxifying it, I aid in providing energy and enhancing immunity and digestion.
Curd Rice – I am the best home remedy for an upset stomach because I am easy to digest and works against bloating and indigestion. The curd in me is rich in probiotics that promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria thus relieving constipation and abdominal pain. I am always eaten cold. I am like a natural fire extinguisher that cools the body and helps maintain internal body temperature. Thus if you’re feeling feverish or if it’s simply a very hot day, try me out.
I act as a stress buster. Curd contains antioxidants and good fats. This helps the brain deal with pain and emotions like stress. This makes me not only a tasty dish but also a stress busting one. I aid with weight loss. A bowl of curd rice can fill your stomach and keep you from snacking. It also has negligible calories when compared to a rich serving of Khichadi, Fried Rice or Biriyani. This makes me a good meal to indulge in when you’re attempting to lose weight. Being easy to digest is only one of the reasons curd rice is the best food to eat when ill. I am rich in antioxidants that give the body power to fight infections. It also gives the body much needed energy when ill.
Khichadi – I am free of Gluten. I am eaten almost in every nook and corner of the country and in many countries around the world. You are eaten in only 3 states. As the world starts adopting Vegan standards you will find lesser people eating Curd Rice and in some years you may cease to exist.
Curd Rice – Good things never die. I have my band of die hard followers who swear by me. I am also Gluten Free so thats not a + point in your favour. I can be eaten for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. I can be eaten with fresh rice or rice soaked in water overnight. I dont need to be heated to be served. Making me is so easy and fast. I have seen how you look when not eaten fresh. You become lumpy and hard and need to be reheated to be served. And it takes way too long to make you.
Khichadi – But you become sour after some time.
Curd Rice – Thats not true. People who carry me for long distances make me with a mix of milk and curd. That ensures I dont become sour. A little bit of hot water from the flask is all it takes to get me reactivated for a tasty meal.
Seeing the debate getting heated up the judges felt that the simple Tambram Curd Rice was getting beaten up by the more aggressive Khichadi. After much confabulation they were not able to decide a winner and declared them as Joint Winners.
Their final statement read as follows
Curd Rice & Khichadi are both deserving winners of the best comfort food category. They have a lot in common, they are simple and packed with benefits which is what endears them to one and all. They both aid in getting a good sleep (a point that both missed out). After a nice lunch of Curd Rice or Khichadi you are sure to enjoy a nice afternoon siesta.
They dont compete but compliment each other. We strongly recommend to Khichadi that it be served with a side dish of Curd or Raita so that the benefit of Curd can be leveraged.
What is also clear is that the power of Rice is unbeatable. Most Indian intellectuals have come from the land of Rice eaters. And that is a trend which we hope shall continue… so folks eat more Rice.