Khichuri With Five Spice Powder

Khichuri is a Bangladeshi dish. Yellow split peas can be substituted for the lentils if you prefer.

1-1/2 Cups brown basmati rice
3/4 Cup lentils (3/4 cup)
2 Bay Leaves
1 Stick Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Turmeric
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/2 Cups diced seedless cucumber
2 Tbsp finely-chopped fresh mint
1 Cup coarsely chopped shallots, plus 1 Tbsp minced shallots
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder (or panch phoran from the Indian grocery store)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 fresh serrano chile with seeds, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 Cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the basmati rice in a medium bowl and add just enough cold water to cover by at least 1 inch. Allow to soak at room temperature for at least 30 min, or up to 2 hours.

While the rice soaks, put the lentils in a bowl of cold water. Swish the lentils around with your hand, then drain the water; repeat 2 more times to wash the lentils thoroughly. Transfer lentils to a 3-qt saucepan. Add 4 Cups water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, and half of the turmeric. Stir to just combine and continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender and the mixture is thick but still soupy, 25 to 35 min. Add hot water as needed to maintain this consistency. Remove the whole bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and stir in 1 tsp salt. Remove lentils from stove and set aside.

Bring 8 Cups of water to a boil in a 4- to 5-qt Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Stir in 2 tsp salt and return to a boil. Drain the soaking water from the basmati rice and sprinkle it into the pot of boiling water. Return pan to a boil and cook rice until al dente, about 17 min. Drain any remaining water from the rice. Return the warm rice to the pot, and over low heat, stir in the butter. When the butter has melted, cover and cook over very low heat until the rice is tender, about 30 min. Remove heavy pot from the heat and allow to sit, covered, for an additional 15 min.

While the rice is cooking, in a medium bowl, stir together the fresh cucumber, mint, minced shallot, lime juice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Adjust seasonings to taste; set aside.

In a wok or other broad, heavy-duty 6-quart pot, heat the peanut or vegetable oil, over medium-high heat. Add the remaining turmeric and the Five Spice Powder. Cook quickly, stirring to combine oil and spices, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are tender and browned at the edges, 2 to 3 min. Add the garlic, serrano chile, and ginger and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 min.

Add the rice to the oil-and-spice pan, breaking up any clumps of rice, coating the grains in the flavored oil. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the cooked lentils, half of the fresh cilantro, and 1 tsp salt into the rice mixture. Gently stir with the spatula until mixture is well blended. Continue to stir and heat the mixture until any remaining liquid from the lentils has been absorbed by the rice, 1 to 2 min. Season to taste, if necessary.

Transfer khichuri to a serving platter or a wide, shallow serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining cilantro, and serve with the cucumber salad.