Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kanji & Payar – Our Comfort Food…! A traditional favourite of many Keralites.

Memory Disk 1:
Quite a vague memory of my grand father’s house…..night time……dull light comes from a petromax lantern….a wooden dining table … grandpa sitting on a wooden bench and having Kanji/rice gruel with ‘an organic spoon’ made of plavila/jackfruit tree leaf…..and I am sitting , on the other side, insisting my aunt that I want one of those spoons too……

Memory Disk 2:
Sometime in my early teens…..our family is heading back home after our annual vacation to some place…all of us exhausted and just waiting to reach home and take a shower, my mother asks, “ Is kanji (rice gruel) and uppumanga chammanthi (brined mango chutney) ok for dinner?”. “yes…”, “yes…”, “.I am fine with that too”…all of us travel back with the hope of digging into our comfort food.

Memory Disk 3:
One of those hostel days in Chennai……..Just before reaching the Chennai central railway station, to catch the train to Kerala, Yours truly calls up her mother, to make sure that someone will be there at the destination to pick her up…her mother picks up the phone and after collecting all the information, she throws the very important question,”….so…what do you want for breakfast tomorrow….? Shall I make Appam and Stew or you want puttu and kadala ? “. “ I don’t want all that…..could you pls make some kanji and payar? “, a very affirmative answer from the other side!

Memory Disk 4:
A newly married couple …….girl gets back home quite late from work…completely exhausted….…..makes some fresh sweet-lime juice ……throws herself in a chair, grabs the remote control and switches on the TV…………picks up the phone and calls her husband, “ hey….what time you will reach home..? I am too tired …….want something very light for supper…what do you prefer? “ Husband says….” How about Kanji & payar ?” …A sigh of relief from the girl!

Memory Disk 5:
After 2 years stay in US of A, dying to reach home and meet the family and enjoy mom’s food, Yours truly calls up her home and gives all the flight information and arrival time…..and just before winding up the call, her parents ask, “ so that means you will be here in the morning…so what do you want for breakfast? “ Answer comes quickly,“…hmm…I will be happy to clean up my system with some Kanji & payar, after eating all that lousy flight food “, an answer that is not so welcome to her parents who are eagerly waiting to show all their love and compassion, in the form of food, when they meet their daughter after all those years.


Should I say anything more to show how much Kanji & payar mean to me and my family ?:) Kanji is a rice gruel, a comfort food for many Keralites. As macaroni and cheese is to Americans or Risotto to Italians , so is Kanji and Payar to a Keralite. A light breakfast or a light supper……Though Kanji & payar ( Stir fry with cooked green grams) is the most popular and traditional combo, Kanji can be served with a variety of chutneys, pappadam (Indian wafers) , pickles etc.

Now anyone interested to know why I thought of blogging this? When Mallugirl of Malabar Spices announced her Summer Express Cooking Event, she wanted to know what I was planning to contribute. Honestly speaking I had no plans to participate as I could not think of any interesting dishes to whip up in 30 minutes, I responded with an impish smile saying, “Kanji & Payar is the only thing I can cook in 30 minutes and do you really want me to blog that? “, thinking that I can escape from this and enjoy the round-up happily. But she was quite persistent and gave me a green signal. And there was one more innocent looking silent character from here, who did everything she could to pour oil to the flame!!! And they wanted my ‘stories’ too!!! And today I found myself, cajoling my husband for accompanying me to an Indian store in downtown, driving 16 miles up and down to buy the traditional Kerala rice used for preparing kanji and here I am making you all travel down my memory lane ! You blame those two girls from here & here :)

Pre-requisites for Express cooking Kanji & Payar :
  • 2 pressure cookers + 1 shallow pan
  • 1 pressure cooker and 1 rice cooker + 1 shallow pan
  • 1 pressure cooker and A microwave + 1 shallow pan
Time Frame :30 mins

0-15 mins:
  • Wash rice and keep it in pressure cooker.
  • Wash Cherupayar/green grams and keep it in pressure cooker
  • Peel off small onions and garlic and make a coarse paste.
16-30 mins:
  • Set the table and clean up the kitchen counter and relax until the steam is fully out from the cooker.
  • Heat the pan and stir-fry cherupayar/green grams.
Kanji- Rice Gruel (Serves 2)

  • 1 cup rose-matta rice/Kuthari
  • 5-6 cups water
  • Wash the rice thoroughly in water. Along with 5-6 cups of water, cook rice in a pressure cooker or rice cooker, in medium heat, until it’s cooked well and soft enough. Generally, I wait for 4-6 whistles from the cooker. (Note: Rice can be prepared in microwave too. Rice varieties like boiled ponni rice and sona masoori rice take only 25 minutes in microwave. Rose-matta rice might take more time; since I have never tried cooking this in microwave, I am unable to give you the right cooking time.)
Cherupayar Mezhukkupuratti – Stir-fry with cooked green grams.

  • ¾ cup cherupayar/green grams
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 4 green chillies slit opened lengthwise
  • 7-9 red pearl small onions/shallots
  • 3 cloves of small garlic
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1 ½ to 1 ¾ tsp red chilly flakes
  • 1 small sprig of curry leaves
  • 1tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Wash the cherupayar/green grams in water and drain the water fully. Heat the pressure cooker and very mildly roast the cherupayar/green grams until they are dry and warm to touch. Add 2 ¼ cups water, green chillies and salt to taste and cook in the pressure cooker and wait for about 5-6 whistles in medium heat.
  • Using a mortar and pestle set, crush the small onions and garlic and make a coarse paste. If you dont have a mortar-pestle set, keep all the ingredients on the chopping board and crush with a rolling pin.
  • Heat oil in a shallow pan and when it’s hot enough, reduce the flame to low and add 2 dried red chillies and sauté for 4-5 seconds and add the coarse paste of small onion and garlic. When it turns transparent, add red chilly flakes and blend thoroughly with the onion and garlic and sauté for a minute. Now, add the cooked cherupayar/ green grams ( there will not be much water left in the cooker except 1-2 tbsp, which can be poured to the pan along with the green grams/cherupayar) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Do a taste test here and adjust salt and just a minute before turning off the heat, add the curry leaves for a tempting aroma. Serve with Kanji; sprinkle some salt on top of Kanji :)

    Note: There is a jet fast way of cooking this dish, which is by replacing big onion for small onions and saute the onions until transparent; add chilly powder and cook for 1-2 minutes; add cooked cherupayar/green grams and curry leaves.
For a very informative post on Kanji and Payar, Click Here.

This is also my contribution to Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) at Neivedyam.

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