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The Blessings of Langar with Recipe for Veggie Pilau

By Siri Ved Kaur Khalsa

There is a simple and beautiful tradition, established about 500 years ago in India, in which all people regardless of caste, religion, race, or gender, sit together as equals and share in a blessed meal. No one has special seating or dishes. All sit on the floor and are served together. This is called Langar. At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, over 10,000 people are served every day in this way! The food there is simple, usually dal (spiced lentil soup), chapattis (whole wheat flat bread) and chawal (rice). Its taste and vibration are very divine because it is prepared and served with constant chanting and prayer. All of the food and labor are donated. It is considered a blessing and privilege to contribute in any way.

We can easily bring this tradition into our communities. If you are beset with a difficult challenge or wish blessings for a special event, whether it be dealing with a great personal loss, a stressful important decision, or a family celebration...say a prayer, make some food, and find some people to serve. You might invite friends over, bring the food to work, or share it with your neighbors. The act of preparing and serving food with love and prayer is very potent! Such an offering brings power to your prayer, a deep sense of fulfillment, and the hand of the Divine into the resolution of your affairs.

One day my husband, Gurujodha Singh, came home and said he wanted to start serving langar to the homeless every Saturday. He made a few phone calls; I rounded up a few pots, and the next thing we knew we were preparing food for 200 people every week. We did this for over a year, and served it at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. As word spread of what we had undertaken, donations came in to help pay for the food and two 60-quart stainless steel pots “manifested.” A local market donated fresh vegetables. Someone donated baking trays (we made cornbread every week) and in no time it became a community project.

This is to say that it doesn't take a lot for you to make a difference. When you do something with goodness in your heart, it generates more goodness. Who knows what lives you may touch? Even the smallest bit of love and kindness goes a long, long way toward making this world a finer place.

Triple Chili Veggie Pilau

Yield: 4-6 servings (about 7 cups) ??This curried rice dish is bursting with vegetables and three varieties of fresh chilies. It is the first dish Yogi Bhajan taught me how to prepare when I served as his personal cook. Basmati rice is widely available natural white rice that is very easy to digest. This particular dish is known by the yogis to be helpful for the kidneys and digestion. I love it best served with steamed beets and a scoop of cottage cheese or yogurt.?? If your palate isn’t quite up for all the chilies, you can reduce the heat by de-veining and deseeding the chilies (wear gloves or oil your hands first to protect your skin from the potent oils; wash your hands afterwards), or by using only Anaheim chilies (which are really quite mild).

¼ cup olive oil or ghee

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup finely chopped fresh gingerroot (peeled)

1½ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. caraway seeds

¼ tsp. celery seeds

2 tsp. poppy seeds

2 Anaheim chilies, chopped

1 yellow chili, chopped

2 Serrano chilies, chopped

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed clean and well drained

2 cups water

4 cups chopped assorted vegetables (broccoli, carrots, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, red radishes, cauliflower, fresh peas… are all good)

1/2 tsp. salt, or more to taste

Heat oil or ghee in the bottom of a 2-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame. Sauté onions and ginger until quite soft and lightly browned. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped chilies and sauté a little longer, adding a touch more oil if needed to prevent sticking. Now add rice and cook two more minutes, still stirring, until the rice is slightly toasted. Add vegetables, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Immediately cover and turn the flame to very low. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit another 8 minutes. Remove lid, fluff lightly, and serve.

Siri Ved Kaur studied vegetarian yogic cooking with Yogi Bhajan, beginning in 1971. While she served as his personal cook, his wife, Bibiji Inderjit Kaur, also trained her in the fine art of Indian cooking. Since then she has authored two cookbooks, From Vegetables, With Love and Conscious Cookery, and numerous columns for Aquarian Times.

Reprinted from Aquarian Times, May 2006