Durga Puja 2023: 8 Dishes To Pair With Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri
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Ask any Indian and they’ll say that the epitome of comfort food in Indian cuisine is represented by Khichdi, that medley of rice and lentils cooked across the Indian subcontinent. But ask any Bengali if the regular dal-rice Khichdi and the Bengali cuisine version of the dish, commonly known as Khichuri, are the same, and they will reply in a negative. Then ask them if the Bhoger Khichuri all Bengali Hindus relish on the day of Maha Ashtami during the Durga Puja festival beats all other varieties in terms of flavours and essence, and their answer would be yes, of course! 

So, what is it about the Maha Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri that makes the dish transcend the realm of comfort food and enter into the divine? Yes, it certainly has to do with the association Bhoger Khichuri has with Durga Puja and even other Bengali festivals like Kali Puja. An essential part of the dishes offered to Maa Durga during Durga Puja, no matter where in the world you celebrate it, Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri isn’t just a plain and simple combination of rice and lentils. It is, in fact, a celebration of the deity and many things. Here’s how. 

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What Makes Bhoger Khichuri Outstanding 

The rice and lentils used in Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri are Gobindobhog rice and Shona Moong Dal. The short-grain, fragrant rice variety of Gobindobhog is grown across Bengal and is used to create everything from Khichuri to Payesh to even Pitha. Shona Moong Dal is a variety of yellow moong dal found in Bengal, and for this recipe, it is dry roasted until golden brown and then cooked with the rice. So, at its very core, Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri is a celebration of two traditional Bengali ingredients known for their fragrance, colour and depth of flavour. 

The Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri is always loaded with vegetables, which is another feature that makes the dish stand out among other Khichdi varieties. With cauliflowers, potatoes and peas always making their way into it, Bhoger Khichuri turns into a celebration of autumnal flavours, which is one of the main reasons why it is always included in festivities during autumn and winter seasons, whether it’s Durga Puja, Kali Puja or Saraswati Puja in Bengal. And while other Khichdi varieties may boast of their simplicity, Bengali Bhoger Khichuri is known to be especially loaded with ghee.  

Flavoured with ginger, green chillies, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves and often with toasted coconut slices, Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri is not just a combination of rice and lentils but a medley of flavours that create culinary harmony and excellence together. But while all of these ingredients make Bhoger Khichuri a must-have, what enhances the flavour of this dish even further are the wide variety of vegetarian delights served along with it. Ritually and traditionally, Ashtami Bhoger Khichuri is enjoyed with a number of dishes and never alone. Here are some such dishes that are paired with Bhoger Khichuri that you must relish today. 

1. Labra 

Another dish that celebrates seasonal vegetables and Bengali cuisine at its best, Labra is created with a combination of veggies and mild spices and it considered one of the most delicious sattvik and vegetarian dishes of Bengali cuisine. Made with pumpkins, cauliflowers, broad beans, potatoes, spinach and brinjals, Labra is flavoured with panch phoron and coconut. This no onion-no-garlic dish is a must-have with Bhoger Khichuri. 

2. Beguni 

You may know this one as a street food snack popular across Bengal, but during Durga Puja, Beguni is always served with Bhoger Khichuri. This eggplant or brinjal slices are dipped in a spiced gram flour or besan batter, then deep-fried until crispy and golden. While Bhoger Khichuri is a bit mushy, Beguni offers a yummy and crunchy contrast. 

3. Chatni 

While North Indians may pair savoury chutneys with their Khichdi, Bengalis choose to combine Chatni condiments which have a balance of sweet-savoury-spicy notes. The most common variety of Chatni served with Bhoger Khichuri is one made with tomatoes and dates, which is a combination of sweet and sour flavours. Many also make Chatni with Aam Sotto (mango leather), pineapple and other ingredients to serve with Bhoger Khichuri. 

4. Begun Bhaja 

All Bengalis know that if there isn’t any Beguni on their Bhoger Khichuri thali on Ashtami, there certainly will be Begun Bhaja. Made with long eggplant wedges or thick and round slices, Begun Bhaja is a simple delight and very easy to prepare. Salt and turmeric are rubbed on the slices and then the veggie is fried in mustard oil. 

5. Dhokar Dalna 

Steamed lentil cakes, popularly known as Dhoka, are a delicacy of Bengali cuisine, and a simple Dalna or curry made with it is often served with Bhoger Khichuri. Nowadays, Dalnas made with Paneer or Cauliflowers are also equally popular as side dishes during Ashtami—especially if Dhoka isn’t available or easily made in large quantities. 

6. Jhuri Aloo Bhaja 

Not just during Ashtami or any day of Durga Puja, but also on any festive Bengali occasion, Jhuri Aloo Bhaja is a must-have dish. Potatoes are grated into thin, matchstick slices, mixed with salt and allowed to rest over a collander or netted bowl to release the starch and water. Then, the potatoes are deep-fried and mixed with fried peanuts and curry leaves to make a delicious, crunchy side dish with Bhoger Khichuri. 

7. Potol Bhaja 

Pointed gourd, which is known as Parwal in parts of India and Potol in Bengal, is a favourite side with Bhoger Khichuri on Durga Puja Maha Ashtami and other festive occasions. Potol Bhaja is prepared by rubbing salt and turmeric on pointed gourd halves and then frying them. Many people also choose to make Potoler Dalna and other pointed gourd dishes to pair with Bhoger Khichuri.  

8. Bandhakopir Chorchori 

Like many other vegetables, cabbages also becomes available during autumn months, which is why Bandhakopir Chorchori is often made during Durga Puja Ashtami Bhog and paired with Bhoger Khichuri. Spiced with panch phoron and combined with potatoes, chillies and often even coconut, this cabbage dish is a must-have.