Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kanji-Pidi – Rice-flour dumplings cooked in gruel.....Re-creating the forgotten taste from my father’s childhood!

“Hi S…..I am trying to rewind back to my childhood days, a very lengthy period of around fifty eight years back…..I am sure that it will be a very tough mental exercise, especially at this stage when the memory area of my brain has been partly dried…..I am trying to make it wet.

I still remember the year 1949- 50……. I was admitted to the 1st standard of Boys High School Cranganore …..that was the name given by the Portuguese to Kodungallore. As usual classes started on the 1st of June. Heavy rain….. fully damaged village roads ….. extreme cold climate….. newly stitched shirt and trouser that got wet in the rains……. an old umbrella which was supposed to be black, but it was almost white, as it was manufactured even before I was born! ………strange faces, a very strict class teacher always carrying a “Chooral” in his hands……..somehow managed the first day with a mid-day break for lunch at your Achichan’s Vaidyasaala (grandpa’s clinic).

After school, with hunger pangs at its peak, we walked half an hour from school, thinking of the food item that will be served by your Ammumma. On reaching home, I rushed to the kitchen……it was just getting ready. I saw steam coming out of the Iddli-chembu …..the very smell of it doubled my hunger…….I jumped onto the Adappinpottam (kitchen counter) and sat there waiting with a hungry looking face. Your Ammumma could read my face……She opened the Iddli-chembu…..WHOWOHH…… hot steam coming out with a fresh smell of mixed rice powder and thengapeera (grated coconut)…… really irresistible fragrance and that was nothing other than the great ‘naadanKANJIPPIDI, a slightly salty snow white oval shape cakes with your Ammumma's fingerprints clearly visible on the surface ………it was usually cooked with kanji but sometimes was steam cooked like this too…… you know, it was really delicious and it was the monsoon season, most suitable period to have such a steaming dish served right from the cooking dish. I don’t know how she prepared it…..rice powder, salt, thengapeera etc made the trick, I think. This was one of the main items served by Ammumma during those evenings when we returned from school…… anybody can make this but Ammumma’s touch was really fantastic…..hmm…….for a short period my brain got delighted recollecting that monsoon day and those steamed cakes”

These are few lines my father wrote to me recollecting a mundane day from his childhood, when I asked him to share his thoughts …………as I saw him getting excited on this very simple dish his mother used to prepare, on one of my casual conversations with my parents. This humble dish still continues to excite my father’s memory and palate as it did several decades back to that young handsome slim boy with sharp features, wearing a shirt and short trouser with black oily hair combed neatly to one side….that’s how I have seen my father in those black & white family photos. After reading his mail, I could almost visualise that innocent boyish image of my father, jumping on to the kitchen counter and waiting impatiently for his mother to serve those steamed dumplings and it did bring a smile on my face :)

Kanji-Pidi is a very unassuming, down to earth and visually unappealing dish that may never satisfy today’s younger generation whose palate is used to meat patties and aerated drinks. It is essentially rice flour softly cooked with hot water first and then mixed with grated coconut and flavored with an extra pinch of salt and then thrown into the boiling rice bowl and cooked along with Kanji (gruel) to make it nutritious. Pidi can be roughly translated to a “fistful” (of rice flour and grated coconut) and since it was cooked along with Kanji (gruel), it has been called as ‘Kanji-Pidi’. This was usually cooked along with the rice for lunch and served as a mid-morning snack for young boys in my paternal family but when it was to be served as a school-time snack, my grandma resorted to the steamer, to serve her dozen kids.

Though I have tasted Pidi in my childhood and teenage days especially when my mother had some extra dough from Idiappam (String hoppers) which she prepared for breakfast and gave a makeover to the leftover dough by adding some grated coconut and then steamed in Idli-Steamer, I was quite fascinated by this method of preparation after listening to my father. So today, I made an attempt to “recreate the forgotten taste” of my father’s childhood delicacy from his mother’s unpretentious kitchen in my modern American kitchen!

Ingredients: (Makes about 10-12 )
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour, mildly roasted
  • Around 1 - 1½ cups hot boiling water or enough to make a smooth dough
  • ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 1 ½ tsp salt ( salt needs be a tad bit more than the usual amount)
  • Add around 1½ tbsp warm water to grated coconut and crush it with a fork to invigorate the grated coconut and make the juices come together.
  • Mix rice flour and salt; to this add the boiling hot water, just enough to make a soft and smooth dough; use a spoon to stir well and then add the grated coconut and blend everything well. (Note: the dough should be looser than the Chappathi/roti dough but as soft as the Idiayappam/string-hoppers dough). Take a fistful of dough and shape it like the ones in the picture. When the dough comes together in your fist, gently press to emboss your finger prints on them.
  • You can throw these dumplings into a boiling rice bowl (the rice should be ‘almost’ cooked by now) and cook for about 10-12 minutes and then using a slotted spoon, collect each of them draining the ‘Kanjivellam’, starchy water and place it on a serving bowl. Another alternative method is to use an idli-steamer or any other steamer or in a pressure cooker without keeping the weight, filled with enough water, and steam for 10-12 minutes, or till it is fully cooked, in medium heat.
  • Serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.
Related Posts:

Kozhukkatta Ela Ada Kanji & Payar

This may not be an exotic dish worthy to be blogged but it is special to me and I want to chronicle it here as part of saving many things close to my heart!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Hi! this is my first time have a lovely space... and the prelude for this dish was very interestin. I would try this dish pretty soon!! i am new to this blogsphere jus popped in to say a hi!

  2. Although being a malayalee...I have missed eating some of the delicacies that you mention in your blog...these are getting me interested in these authentic snacks...

  3. Kanji-Pidi is new to me! (Again --konkani cousin with slight variation 'Undi') Ur dad reminded me of my dad whose conversation still revolves around his childhood -carefree days, the temple feasts and dishes from his mom! Tks for the recipe n also for taking me down memory lane -in-conversation-wt-dad!! Thks!

  4. Maybe recipes like this would have been long lost if you hadnt blogged it here..infact never heard of it before. Many of them simple and yet tasteful naadan recipes are lost on the current generation when we are running after more junk food..
    I wish I could have this as I love kanji and I must guess this should taste like heaven...

    uppu itta kanjivellam is a favourite drink of mine..:-)

  5. You are truly the God of small things!! How else can you write so much for kanji-pidi.
    Now a-days this looks like some exotic dish far from the common man stuff that it previously was.

  6. Very simple and delicious dish ,but a lot of good memories around it.
    I too love these pidi.

  7. wow !! This is real nostalgia Mish..Even now,when we make idiyappam/noolappam,this pidi comes as a bonus..!! Kids love them so much..
    Hats off to your fathers sweet childhood memories
    Lovely picture as always

  8. I salute ur heart for posting this recipe. WHo said it is not exotic. See most of readers dont know about this. So this indeed the most exotic post ever done.

  9. I salute ur heart for posting this recipe. WHo said it is not exotic. See most of readers dont know about this. So this indeed the most exotic post ever done.

  10. I guess we all have a child in us...that was such a sweet memory from your dad...loved the recipe too.

  11. Ohh ohh... when did you change the template? I absolutely love the new look. Its gorgeous.
    This is a very new dish. I will have to try it sometime.

  12. This is my first visit to your blog,you have a great space here..Loved your post on the kanji brought back memories of my mom and mom in law who make these kinds of things for "tiffin"...its been a long time...

  13. nice reading ur dads reminiscences..looks great..

  14. nice reading ur dads reminiscences..looks great..

  15. oohh..i sooo used to love this!! thanks for bringing back those memories! :)

  16. looks gr8 mish!!beautiful pic..
    never heard of kanjipidi...will definitely try this out...

  17. this is what we call akki pundi meaning rice balls :) recipes like these are most treasured in our household. beautifully written post mishy.
    belated onam wishes to u girl.

  18. and i love this new look of mishmash :)

  19. Hi,
    Awesome blog. Stunning photographs and arrangement. I really love those sqare sets. Feels very zen. You truly are a multi-talent. Your sense of arrangement have such class and individuality.

    Unfortunately I'm on a diet right now and most probably going to go on an eating rampage soon. Your blog seems like devil in disguise.
    I can't wait to try out all these.

    By the way I've been told by some Biryani fanatics that pineapple essence is a crucial ingredient. Do you use it and if so, is it available in the west (am from UK)? Please advice on this.

    Your blog is a gold mine!


  20. This kanji pidi is known as 'peechappam' in our place.... means kaiyyileduthu peechi undakkunna appam :)

  21. who is to say what is worthy to be blogged!! simplicity rules. this is perfect. your story and post makes is all the more wonderful


  22. Kanji pidi!! me too digging aged people's memory here..pazhayathokke vamshanasham sambhavikkathe nokkane , ennu chilar.. :)
    Looks good dear.

  23. Hey! Onasamsakal :)

    Pinne, saw a Mishmash Pal Payasam pic on a poster at a Blore Mallu Restaurant.
    The poster had ur footer though.

    Will send u the pic.


  24. Vij, welcome here.....thanks a lot for dropping by....will check your space :)

    Rachel, nice to know that i 'm stirring up someone's interest and appetite at the same time :)

    Purnima, yeah even i like to listen to their vintage stories but i have never got such a vivid description from him.....we missed lot of the things they enjoyed, especially all that fun during vacations and festivals!

    Mathew, i was really not sure if someone would be interested in reading this post but now looking at the comments, i think i was completely wrong:) hahha kanjivellam....oh ,. i disliked it as a child coz i Mummy used to serve me that whenever i was down with fever and puking...those days it tasted so bland...even now i can slurp it down only if it is well flavored with that spicy cherupayar or any other side dish....:)

    Kitchen Flavours, thank you :)

    Pramod Abraham,oh myyy!!!! I am flattered, husbandd did keep his hand on his chin after reading your comment and kept teasing me...:)))thank you so much :)

    Happycook, am sure you enjoyed all those naadan dishes on your recent vacation.....lucky you :)

    Ann, thats something nice to ppl are still making it ....and hey for that blueberry bread doubt u had asked, yeah u can use regular you get blueberries there?

    Pooja, thanks a lot.....comments like this is enough to keep me motivated for sometime....really appreciate it :)

    Sunita, yes my friend, you re absolutely right....

    Shilpa, :) just last weekend....hardly 10 days now :) you can try this on a day when u make string hoppers at home....just add some grated coconut to the dough and an additional pinch of salt...steam it along with them or cook it like this along with rice....the latter does bring a a very distinct yet slight taste difference...i prefer the latter.

    Usha, yeah you re right....this is one of those easiest snacks we can prepare....thanks for dropping by :)

    Divya Vikram, thank you :)

    Superchef,I am happy to hear that :)

    Divya, thank you :)

    Sia,not exactly akki pundi but can call it a cousin...this doesnt require grinding of rice...and less effort too....:) glad you liked the makeover :)

    Asha, I really dont know how to express my thanks after seeing your series of comments in my blog ....I am truly happy to know that you enjoyed this page....and about the biryani, hmm...i dont use pineapple times i use rose essence...just a sprinkling to make it fragrant.....back home, they serve biryani with pineppale rings as a dessert....but i am not aware of the essence part...may be some use it! :) and for the coffee grinder doubt, yes it is perfect for grinding spices ..hoep it helps!

    Anon, ayyo...what a sweet name.... truly cute....:)

    Jai, Thanks boss ...I was wondering people will think that whether I have gone crazy writing about such simple old fashioned stuff, though i enjoy reading about such it was kind of an anticipatory bail :D

    Seena, "vamshanaasham" that exactly is the right dig out and post all that...coz i am sort of helpless as i cannt recreate some cooking requirements and conditions have that privilege ., so why not preserve all this? :)

    Nikhil, Thank you....I hope you had a great onam celebration too :) yeah ...pls send me the picture when you get time,,,,this is the 3rd case in the last 4 days, which included a malayalam newspaper too...i think i should hire an assistant to handle all this :))) thanks again for letting me know...really appreciate this support.


  25. Mishmash,
    Bangalore area, I will handle ketto.


  26. Hey Mishmash,

    Regular reader of your blog....i found this picture of your onam sadya in orkut ....sending you the link.....

    copy and paste it to see in one of my friends friends onam wishes....u might have to create a orkut account if u donnt have one....i tried checking from where it started but couldnt do let me know if u want any further information....


  27. I sincerely hope that you are planning to chronicle these memories into a publication, even if you have to self-publish it as a family keep-sake.

  28. Rashmi, thank you for taking time to let me know this...firstly i cant access the link...secondly that greeting message will just keep going like a forward message.........i really dont think i can do something about it.....I am sort of tired ...4 cases in 5 days :))

  29. As long as the pic has ur link in the footer, its publicity.
    Think that ways, Mishmash.

  30. Mishmash,

    i really felt bad and shocked when i saw the picture.Have sent you the screenshot through mail.Although it will be difficult to trace from where it started butmay be you can put ur blog name very boldly maybe in capital letters in the middle of the pictures atleast the sadya one.just a suggestion.let me try to ask the person from where he got the picture.

    Rashmi :-)

  31. Cynthia, hmmm....I wish I could find a publisher :))

    Nikhil, yeah ....i am staying positive.....i think i should learn to look at it as flattery!! Thanks, Nikhil....You ve been very supportive!

    Rashmi, thanks for mailing it....yeah, i am taking your suggestion...planning to do the same thing, not that it is a solution but still...thanks again...just overwhelmed to see the support :)

  32. My first time here... love your blog. The pictures are so pretty and the recipes are amazing.
    Will mark you up for follow up so I know when you surface again with another recipe.
    Oh and by the way... your blog name and mine kind of rhyme! :)

  33. It was very nice to read about your Dad's childhood days.. You are an amazing daughter..full of love!!
    Great to know you Shn!!

  34. I love the way you beautifully weave family history and love into your cooking and posts, Shn. It always brings me back for more.

  35. We generally make kozhakattas or kanji. I've never had kanji pidi but sounds so good! I've observed my father and FIL both fondly recollecting simple dishes cooked by their mothers. None of the fancy dishes we cook even match up!

  36. Hi! I'm a first time visitor to your blog...really loved it & also tried out the Pidi recipe yesterday. Had the thumbs up from my hubby & am on cloud nine! Thanks for the recipe & do continue to feature 'humble' food like this.
    Cheers :)

  37. I've posted something similar - called akki undi - on my blog. Funny how similar both sound! I'm looking forward to the ghee rice recipe - can't see it for some reason. Will be back later this week to check :)

  38. Hi,
    I,m a new visitor to your blog watching silently on all your fantastic recipes& excellent presentations.if you have a recipe for sughiyan(moongdal coated in flour)can u post it please.

  39. oh my god ... Nice dish and nice presentation

  40. great recipes. but, it's useless if you do not let the people to copy and save locally. i cannot remember all i read....

  41. pls allow to copy n use at home, me i'm lookin at t receipes fm office but can't write down t ful thing coz it takes time, i want 2 make t mouth watering dishes at home but i think u'll not allow me to copy them, is ther any book of yours that i can buywith all these receipes?
    anyways its a gud job wit tasty dishes, gud work !


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