How Kitchari and Maharagwe became “Kitcharagwe”


One of the greatest joys of making soup – and cooking in general – is being able to travel anywhere in the world for lunch or dinner. I don’t mean hopping on a private jet and telling the pilot, “take me to Spain.” No, the travel is through food and the flavors, ingredients and concepts that form the culinary landscape of a place.

I’m starting a new service called Soup Escapes. Over time, it will be offering free roundtrip travel to every country on Earth via soup bowl. Today, we will be visiting India and Kenya for a taste of two staple dishes – Kitchari and Maharagwe.

Kitchari is a basic “soup” of rice and yellow moong dal that is popular in Ayurvedic circles. It is often eaten as the primary meal for those on a detox regimen, because it provides a complete protein and is easy to digest – Kitchari is usually cooked to a porridge-like consistency. Turmeric, coriander and cumin are typically used to flavor the dish, with vegetables such as onions and carrots tossed in for added texture and taste.

Maharagwe is a Kenyan vegetarian dish of red kidney beans simmered in a sauce of coconut milk, tomatoes, turmeric and hot peppers. It is cooked to a thick consistency and eaten with rice or other starches.

I thought the base flavors of Maharagwe would work well to flavor Kitchari, and the rice and dal could stand in place of kidney beans. So, I brought the two together and turned them into a soup I call, “Kitcharagwe.” To shake things up even further, I put in an equal amount of red lentils and moong dal for a nice color contrast of red and yellow. A pound of boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces gives this soup extra body and flavor. Oregano might seem like an odd herb to include, but it pops up in many soup and stew recipes across sub-Saharan Africa. Many times the suggested amounts are “as needed” or “to taste.” Not very helpful advice, so I tossed in enough oregano to impart its flavor without making this taste like some bizarre pizza sauce. I also mixed in a handful of raisins (totally optional).

I’m always tempted to top curries with cilantro, but this time I went with fresh mint as the finishing herb. The tingle of the mint helps balance the richness of the coconut milk. Nestled with a few cashew halves, this Kitcharagwe is a stew-like soup that can stand on its own. And now, it has a name of its own!

Chicken Kitcharagwe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Indian African
Serves: 8-10
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • ½ cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • ½ cup yellow moong dal, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Turkish oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1, 14½-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock (more if you want a thinner soup)
  • 1, 14-ounce can coconut milk
  1. Soak lentils and moong dal for 2 hours in cold water; drain and rinse
  2. Melt ghee in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat
  3. Stir in onion and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Add chicken and spices and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, mixing everything well to coat chicken
  5. Drop in rice, lentils, moong dal, tomatoes and chicken broth
  6. Bring to boil and reduce heat
  7. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes, partially covered, until rice, lentils and dal are tender
  8. Pour in coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes
  9. Serve, topped with fresh mint and cashews


Melt ghee

Saute onions

Add boneless chicken

Spices and herbs

Add spices and herbs

Saute chicken with spices

Add basmati rice, red lentils, moon dal and tomatoes

Pour in chicken broth

Cook soup 30 minutes

Add coconut milk



Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.



Beef Biryani Soup

Beef biryani soup spice mix

Biryani is a classic Indian dish of rice and meat lavished with spices that is often served on festive occasions. When you taste it, you’ll understand why.

Made Tender with Yogurt

Imagine stew beef; velvety, in a coating of yogurt.

Yogurt is a much-used marinade for Indian cooking. It is a fantastic tenderizer and works great to coat beef, chicken or lamb in whatever herbs and spices you choose to apply. And it’s very forgiving – if you leave your dish draped in yogurt a couple extra hours there is no harm done.

So we first yogurt-ize and spice the beef.

And then the Biryani is…

Made awesome with spices

Infused with flavor – redolent with cayenne, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric and ginger

Simmered, Oh, so slow!

Then we take the marinated beef mixture and slow-cook it in a bath of onions and clarified butter until it’s Sunday-roast tender…

Lentils and Rice come to the Party!

You know they want to!

Biryani… Become Soup!

And then – and only then – do we take the final liberty and add beef broth to make Biryani “soup.”

Biryani soup ingredients

Beef Biryani Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Indian, African
Serves: 8
  • 1 pound stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • ¾ cup basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 onion, minced
  1. Put the beef into a plastic bag or non-reactive container and add the yogurt, cayenne pepper, ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander and garlic
  2. Let marinade for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours
  3. Drop ghee into a large Dutch oven and melt over medium heat
  4. Toss in onion and cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes
  5. Add beef mixture and cook until beef browns on outside
  6. Pour in water and reduce heat to simmer
  7. Cover and let simmer 1 hour, until beef is fork tender
  8. Stir in lentils and rice and pour in beef broth
  9. Bring to boil
  10. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice and lentils are tender
  11. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley

Beef and yogurt

Marinate beef


Biryani soup spice mixture

Add spices and yogurt to beef

Beef marinade mix

Add 1 tablespoon ghee to Dutch oven

Melt ghee

Saute onion until translucent

Add beef mixture


Brown beef mixture

Pour in water

Simmer 1 hour

Add lentils and rice

Pour in beef broth

Chop fresh cilantro

Beef Biryani Soup


Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.