Forklore: Fishing for breakfast

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Another in our series of rediscovered gems from food historian Charles Perry:

In England, a traditional breakfast dish dating from the days of the British Raj is kedgeree, usually consisting of lightly curried rice mixed with flaked smoked fish, and often lentils and fried onions as well. Back in India, though, khicri is basically just the rice and lentils, fish being optional at best. It’s the Old World equivalent of New Orleans beans and rice.

The Hindi word khicri or khicra is assumed to descend from the Sanskrit krsara (if so, it must have been a difficult descent), which meant a mixture of rice and peas. This idea of mixing lentils (or peas) with rice has spread during this century to the Near East as well, where rice and lentil koshari is now a popular cheap meal in Egypt. Even in remote Uzbekistan, you can find Central Asian people making a dish of rice and mung beans called maashkichiri.

In India, the word khicri has the slang sense of a mixture or heap, which is probably how it came to be the name for the money paid in advance to a dancing girl. The connotation of a miscellaneous mixture is also known in Arabic, where hashish koshari is a mixture of hashish and tobacco and shay koshari is tea you make by pouring hot water over the leaves in a glass, rather than steeping them in a teapot and straining them out before pouring the tea.

--Charles Perry