Kanji or rice gruel was once the most commonly had meal in all Kerala homes. But nowadays, with modernization it is relegated to being a poor man's meal. Kanji is made from the red unpolished Kerala rice that takes both more water and time hence more fuel to cook. So the rice was put in a potful of water and placed on a firewood stove that bubbled away for sometime till it cooked. Some kanji / rice gruel was taken out for breakfast and then the water was drained into another vessel leaving the rice for lunch. Typically, in the village very little gets thrown away or discarded, so also with this drained starchy water - it was given to the cattle that were bred in most homes then. Till date, this is the way rice is cooked at my grandmother's home in Kerala but today she is the only one who has kanji for breakfast.
As children we visited Kerala almost every year during the summer vacations and had a blast there for the next 40 to 45 days. We looked forward to our trips knowing that our grandparents were also waiting for us to get there. Of course they made sure we got our favorites like, fish, the Kerala black halwa, parippuvada, etc.
Typically, a breakfast there, was either dosa or idli or upma but kanji was also there because my grandparents - ammumma & muthachan liked to have it. My sister and I usually had a bite of breakfast and then quickly took a little kanji as well. In fact when we went into the dining room my ammumma would always ask if we aren't taking some kanji. They would want us to have at least a little kanji. I am guessing they felt since we lived in Bombay having a little kanji showed our affinity to them and the naadu. Maybe that we were still attached. They would offer all the accompaniments as enticement to have kanji - the must have included ghee and chammanthi (thick chutney), then came the papadam, the thoran and not to miss the kadumaangaa. It was such an event and the way it was served was the hot kanji was poured in a deep plate with a little ghee and salt and a smaller flat plate had the accompaniments. My love for kanji was developed there in that home with my ammuma and muthachan looking on lovingly. To them, I dedicate this post.
Kerala Red Rice - 1 cup
Water - 4 to 5 times
Wash the red rice well and then add the water and pressure cook for 4 whistles. When the pressure has released check if the rice has cooked, if not put it back and give it another whistle or two depending on how much it needs to cook.
Serve it in a deep plate or a soup bowl with a little ghee and salt and any or all of the accompaniments given below.
The accompaniments are -
1. Chammanthi - Coconut chutney which is coarsely ground.
2. Thoran - any vegetable cooked the Kerala way with grated coconut. Typically it would be long beans or cabbage or red spinach.3. Papadam - the Kerala papad which has bubbles when fried.
4. Kondattam mollagu - Fried green chillies that are soaked in buttermilk and dried in the sun.
5. Kadumanga - the South Indian tender mango pickle.
My Kanji / Rice Gruel goes to