Friday, January 8, 2010

A Kitchari Fast

In Ayurveda, the ancient wisdom of India dating back 5,000 years, this mix of rice and mung beans is considered extremely easy to digest and is said to purify the digestion and cleanse the body of toxins. Ayurvedic physicians often prescribe a kitchari diet before, during, and after panchakarma, a rejuvenative treatment that cleanses toxins stored in bodily tissues as it restores systemic balance.

Kitchari provides solid nourishment while allowing the body to devote energy to healing. You can safely subsist on kitchari anytime in order to build vitality and strength as it helps balance all three doshas. For restless vata, the warm soup is grounding; for fiery pitta, its spices are calming; and for chilly kapha, it provides healing warmth.

According to Vasant Lad, in his book, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, "A five-day kitchari fast, using plain kitchari with just some chopped cilantro leaves added, will cleanse the system and help to strengthen memory."

Kitchari fasting is actually a mono-diet, which means the body receives a limited diversity of foodstuffs and therefore needs to produce a limited number of digestive enzymes. The work of the digestive system is lessened, allowing for greater healing and cleansing to occur. A kitchari cleanse can be calming, soothing and warming.


Kitchari tastes like a cross between a creamy rice cereal and a light dal, or lentil soup. If it is a cold, blustery day or you are feeling under the weather, a steaming bowl of this classic Indian comfort food can both warm up your bones and restore sagging energy. Everyone has his or her own special method of making kitchari. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing offers a half-dozen kitchari recipes, including this one found on Yoga Journal:

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup split yellow mung beans
  • 1 tbsp peeled, chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • handful chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each of cardamom, pepper, clove powder, turmeric, salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 cup raw basmati rice
  • 6 cups water
Directions:

First, rinse the mung beans and soak for several hours. Set aside. In a blender, liquefy the peeled, chopped ginger, shredded coconut, chopped cilantro with one-half cup of water. In a large saucepan, lightly brown the  spices, salt; and bay leaves (remove before serving) in the ghee, or butter.

Drain the beans and then stir them into the spice mixture in the saucepan. Next, add the basmati rice. Stir in the blended spice and coconut mixture, followed by six cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on low heat for approximately 25 to 30 minutes until soft.

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