Richmond Times-Dispatch

Shop your pantry for makings of a versatile and hearty Indiandish


Almost a whole shelf in our home pantry is devoted to Indian ingredient­s: ground and whole spices, rice and legumes. It’s our favorite cuisine. And one of our favorite restaurant­s in Washington is Rasika.

When I had the chance to ask its executive chef, Vikram Sunderam, to help me cook from my pantry, he suggested kichidi (also known as kitchadi and kitchari), a comforting mix of rice, vegetables and legumes that is often made for people who are under the weather.

But Sunderam’s version wasn’t bland. He combined my dried chickpeas and basmati rice as the base, jazzing up the pairing with crushed tomatoes and some long-lasting vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes).

I wanted to make it as soon as I read the recipe. The raita side dish, made with Medjool dates, yogurt, cumin and salt, was an extra enticement.

The result was an absolute triumph. The rice and chickpeas were a perfect match, and the tomatoes brought vivid color and flavor. Thanks to a jalapeño in the mix, the dish also boasted a little heat, a great foil for the sweet, salty and tangy raita.

Sunderam says you can mix up the ingredient­s according to your own pantry supplies. The legumes and rice are flexible, as are the vegetables. You can even add chopped meat, sauteing it with the onions and garlic and allowing it to cook through with the rice. In other words, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Regardless of what you throw in, know you’ll be in for a filling and even celebrator­y meal.

“It’s a like a one-stop-shop sort of thing,” Sunderam says. And all I had to do was shop my pantry.

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