The Old Khichdi With a New Twist (And Technology)


Comfort Food and Technology


Going away from the food delivery model to becoming a food-first company, one of the first choices Ola Foods made was to add in their portfolio the “Khichdi Experiment”. It’s an interesting move, fascinating for those with an appetite for business, as well as foods. Knowing the sum a Unicorn can spare on R&D, picking khichdi is a big tell-tale of a few things. One, this superfood is the ultimate staple for Indians. Two, even in the crowd of crusty pizzas and fast foods, khichdi remains dominant. Third, it’s a lucrative category for other food business owners to tap on. Why do you think Ola Food is now offering 16 variations of khichdi – from Mumbai Paav Bhaji Khichdi to Palak Paneer Khichdi? There are enough reasons!

Why is it so popular?

At the World Food India 2017, khichdi was promoted as “brand India food”. In fact, legendary chef Sanjeev Kapoor supervised the preparation of 918kg khichdi at the event, which was a world record then of being the largest serving of rice and beans in a single utensil. However, earlier in January 2020, that record got broken when a team of 25 chefs from the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department prepared 1,995kg khichdi in five hours. Clearly, there exists a whole different obsession for this dish in India. But why?

  • Comfort Food: There’s a host of varied reasons why khichdi is a go-to comfort food for millions of Indians – why it’s an essential part of the desi cuisine from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. It is easy (and quick) to prepare.
  • Healthy option: Maybe it’s because maybe because it’s immensely healthy. Khichdi is, indeed, a wholesome dish. It is easy to digest and helps detoxify the body.
  • Variations and Combinations: There’s plenty of room to experiment and find an ideal taste. Every region, every household has a unique khichdi taste and that what makes this dish so versatile
  • Individual Meal: Khichdi makes for a complete meal. One serving of dal khichdi gives approx. 320 calories, which is about 16 percent of the total daily calorie requirement of a standard adult. It could be served in easy one pot packaging and makes a fulfilling, healthy meal option for food-delivery menus.

Opportunities for Food Business Owners

It’s great – and it’s popular. But what does this mean for the businesses in the food industry? For the starters, it means to not get carried away with the marketing campaigns that glorify fast foods. There’s a very large population in the country that devours khichdi; a significant section of it includes youngsters. This picture unveils a delightful opportunity for food business owners. They can tap on this category to attract newer and wider segments of the consumers.

What makes this superfood a super-addition to one’s menu is the flexibility in its recipe. As previously mentioned, there’s a big room to experiment with its taste and presentation. The chef can try many different things to influence the flavor, nutritional value, and price per their own needs and requirements, as well as that of the consumers who they are targeting. So, whether it’s a person who focuses a lot on health, someone who is crunched financially or someone who needs a meal on-the-go, a food business can suit anyone with their khichdi. Furthermore, the dish is ideal irrespective of the budget-segment the business caters – be it a posh restaurant that serves gourmet or a cloud kitchen that delivers low-priced foods.

Many businesses in the industry have, indeed, come forward to tap on the mass appeal of khichdi; Ola Foods is only one among many. Restaurant owners have aced their game in recent times. While some are giving khichdi a gourmet makeover in Ahmedabad, others are powering the taste of the dish with serving of fried fish in Kolkata; some are giving it a videshi twist during Navratri, others are adding to it a dash of innovative tang during Durga Puja. We now have numerous types of khichdi. And that’s being matched equally well with the emergence of new brands in this segment, like Matka Khichdi, Khichdi Experiment, and Jalaram Khichdi etc.  There are also many restaurants that serve this traditional dish with high grandeur, including Factory by Sutra, Café Lota, and Sutra Gastropub.

We now have many khichdi brands in the country.

The Newer Technology in This Segment

Technology has found takers in every segment. And it’s just as true when discussing khichdi. There are many big brands and companies now who are deploying advanced technology at different ends of preparing, cooking, and packaging khichdi. This owes to the initiatives and innovations by companies like Mukunda Foods, the kitchen automation partner to commercial kitchens and food brands around the world, helping them automate their cooking process.

In other ends like packaging, we have already grown by leaps. Fast-food chains, restaurant owners and cloud kitchens are already using state-of-art packages and processes that help foods like khichdi sustain their original taste and properties even during the long delivery time. Talking about cloud kitchens in specific, as more of bigger brands go big on this traditional dish, it’s only a matter of time before we have businesses in this model focus entirely on (different varieties of) khichdi – much like how it happens with Biryani. Thanks to newer food technologies in automation, robotics and more, there exists a pool of opportunities in the food industry, waiting to be tapped on.

A Traditional (And Still Relevant) Food

There are echoes of making khichdi the national food of India. A few years back, in fact, several media houses even unofficially declared it as a national dish. Whether it gets that recognition or not, it sure is in its own league, rallied behind by millions of people in the country who look for a wholesome meal that packs good taste and better health. The history of khichdi dates way back to find its relevance in the gastronomic literature of ancient India. And, owing to the advanced technologies, newer models, and smart business owners in the food industry – the future of this superfood looks just as bright and dominating.