It was about 10 years ago when I sat on my mat at the end of a yoga workshop in Berlin and just thought: WOW! Thomas and I had practiced different styles of yoga for many years, but this workshop was different from anything I had known before. I was moved and deeply touched. The teacher who led the workshop had come from Los Angeles, dressed in white from head to toe and wearing a turban. She was in her late sixties but moved with the energy and flexibility of a young girl. Her yoga was extremely strenuous, we listened to loud music, sang mantras and at the end sank into deep meditation. It all felt intense, fulfilling and wonderful.
When we got home I said to Thomas: “let’s move to Los Angeles and do the yoga teacher training”. His reaction was spectacularly unspectacular, because he simply said: “Okay!” So we terminated our apartment, stored our furniture, packed a large suitcase each, took our dog and moved to LA.
In LA we immersed ourselves in the world of the yogis. We got up at 3 a.m. to do yoga, we had ice cold showers, we took meditation classes that lasted 8 hours straight, and we ate a lot of yogis’ favorite food: dhal with rice. I have to admit that I didn’t particularly like Dhal at the beginning, which was perhaps also due to the fact that in some yoga centers it is not particularly lovingly prepared and a bit bland. Over time, however, I found pleasure in it and began, under the guidance of an Ayurvedic doctor and cook, to prepare the Dhal myself.
Dhal with rice, also called kitchari, is considered the perfect meal in Ayurveda and among yogis. It contains a complete and balanced vegetable protein profile and is a cleansing dish that is said to promote kidney function and nourish the digestive tract. In Ayurverda, it is recommended, among other things, for constipation and can, with the addition of plenty of green leafy vegetables, be consumed for a while as a balancing mono diet (it is recommended to eat some fruit and drink yogi tea between meals). This is especially recommended in the winter months and for people over 40, because it is easily digested (especially if the lenses are soaked in water before use), provides the body with valuable protein, has an alkaline effect and supports the yogi’s focus on daily meditation.
This is what the yogi Kirpal Singh says about Dhal with rice / Kitchari:
“Yogis have eaten this simple dish since time immemorial to promote their spiritual practice. It offers the perfect balance of easily digestible proteins and complex carbohydrates that nourish and detoxify the body at the same time and support a deep meditation practice. Whether you choose Kitchari as a tasty meal or as a detoxifying mono diet, it is definitely a perfect meal for you.”
And now my question for you: have you ever been so touched by yoga or another physical or meditative practice that you wanted to go deeper or even become a teacher yourself? I’m looking forward to your comment below!
RED LENTIL DHAL WITH RICE
For the rice:
- 150 g basmati rice
- 300 ml water
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp raisins optional
For the dhal:
- 100 g red lentils
- 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 small red onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 300 g tomatoes diced
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 200 water plus more if needed
- 1 grated zest of untreated lemon
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 50 g spinach leaves
- freshly ground black pepper
- fresh coriander leaves for serving optional
- First of all, put the red lentils for the dhal in a bowl, pour cold water over them and let them soak until all the ingredients for the dhal are prepared and cut. This makes the lenses easier to tolerate. If you think about it in time, it is even better if you let the lentils soak for a few hours or overnight.
- Wash the basmati rice in a sieve, place in a saucepan with a matching lid and add water, raisins and salt. Bring the whole thing to a boil with the lid closed. As soon as the water boils, turn the heat to the lowest possible temperature and let the rice steep for about 15 minutes until it is cooked through. If necessary, switch off the stove completely so that nothing burns. The rice with the lid closed keep warm until the dhal is done.
- Put the soaked lentils in a sieve and wash off.
- Heat coconut oil in a large, deep pan or saucepan and briefly stir-fry the curry powder, cumin and coriander. Add the red onion and garlic and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, tomatoes and lentils and deglaze with coconut milk and water. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, tomato paste, maple syrup and salt and simmer over medium heat with the lid closed for about 15–20 minutes until the lentils are soft. If necessary, gradually add more water if the consistency of the dhal becomes too dry. It should end up being as smooth as a curry consistency.
- Remove the dhal from the heat and mix in the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with rice and freshly chopped coriander leaves.