Food joint: Khichdi Khichri focuses on flavours of comfort dish
Gaggan Anand's little tips and the ingenuity of the concept is helping a Kolkata food venture win over the cynics, with its simplicity and sheer honesty of flavours
The assortment of khichdis come in quaint clay pots, with pickle on the side, thereby adding to the nostalgia
It takes a lot of pluck and a fair bit of ingenuity to launch a food business that serves only home grown comfort food. Particularly the kind you would crave after a hard day’s work, away from your mum. But, a fledgeling food delivery service in Kolkata is doing just that — packaging food that is all nostalgia, all soul and very, very familiar. Which is perhaps why a local boy, and now one of the world’s finest chefs Gaggan Anand, has been throwing in his weight behind the venture.
Khichdi Khichri, a takeaway/delivery service operating from a residential area off the EM Bypass that runs along the periphery of the city, has a menu inspired by home kitchens across the country.
As the name suggests, it only serves khichdi (13 varieties of them), with some accompaniments and upma poha and other inspired sides. So Bisi Bele Bhaat rubs shoulders with Himachali Khichri while Bhoger Khichuri (a popular Bengali dish served during festivals) and Palak Khichdi make for perfect comrades. The most popular is Maa’s Khichdi, a wholesome moong dal dish any Indian would be familiar with. Also the most economical at '60 per serving. What has got many Kolkatans to sit up and take note is that they also serve Sheddo Bhaat — a bland prep where the rice is cooked together with vegetables, eggs and lentils. No one will ever dream of serving or ordering it at a restaurant. But, the gamble seems to have paid off, and there are plenty of takers for this comfort dish, we are told.
Dolly Punjabi, co-founder, says the idea was to cater to the students and office community. After toying with a few options, they decided to focus on khichdis, since 'no one was doing it.' There was no market survey or data that went into the making of Khichdi Khichri. Just a lot of googling of regional favourites and generous amounts of organic and flavourful ingredients. So only unpolished rice, red rice, organically grown vegetables and spices are used.
Sampling the delights
Here's what we ordered: Bisi Bele Bhaat (Rs 150), Curd Rice (Rs 150), Palak Khichri (Rs 150), Niramish Khichuri (Rs 100) and Lemon Rice (Rs 150). On the side, we ordered Baingan Raita (Rs 60), Aloo Tuk (Rs 50) and Onion Pacchadi (Rs 30). Our orders arrived in pretty clay pots tied up with jute strings and packed in cloth bags. Even the chutneys and pickles were packed neatly in mini clay saucers. Nice touch.
Each dish was flavourful and clean. The Niramish Khichuri (Bengali style Moong Dal khichri with green peas and a touch of sweetness) was spot on, as was the curd rice. The latter especially, was beautifully fragrant and neither too sweet not sour. We were told it was Anand who suggested they add an extra dash of spice to mak it stand out. Masterstroke. Palak Khichri was a creamy, rich green preparation with plenty of seasonal veggies while Bisi Bele was a spicier version of the classic one. The Lemon Rice was interesting. And we figured, the use of gondhoraj lebu (a regional variant of the Kaafir Lime) in Curd Rice is a brilliant touch, thanks once again to Anand.
The gondhoraj lebu is a fragrant lime with roots in Bangladesh (a cross between mandarin and lime). The regal nomenclature (the king of aroma) says a lot about the mystique and romance Bengalis attach to this regional specialty. Chefs across the city have been using it in grilled fish, souffles and salads to name a few. No wonder then Anand wanted the Khichdi people to use the star of the region’s cuisine in a classic from down South and give it a unique spin.
The other star of the spread was the Baingan Raita. Inspired by Bengal, this cold dish uses mustard paste and slivers of brinjal in a tangy, pungent, sweet and spicy raita. It got our vote for its innovativeness. What we loved about all the dishes was that the portions were perfect for a sound meal, and yet extremely light. We did not feel heavy despite feasting on the copious amounts of rice. And that says something about the way they cook.
Khichdi Khichri is on Swiggy that services a radius of 4 km radius. But, through their website they have catered to customers across the city. So next time you are in Kolkata and have crammed yourself with mishti doi and maach, it may be a good idea to turn to some comfort food. Maa’s style.
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