Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kanjivellam………Energy Drink, Home Remedy, Hair Care & Much More…..

Food evokes memories ………the smell wafting though the air and flavours lingering on the palate is powerful enough to glide us through the long forgotten days of childhood and in my case, sometimes even a mere mention of a particular food, takes me back to those days that has begun to fade away from my little brain. That is exactly what happened when Mathew wrote “uppu itta kanjivellam is a favourite drink of mine..:-)”, as part of his comment for my post on Kanji Pidi.

While reading that comment, I did not have the slightest clue that I would end up writing a post on Kanjivellam which is nothing but the rice stock you get while cooking rice. When I read that comment, my first reaction was “ewww…” as I always associated it with those days when I was down with fever and vomiting……. I remember my mother giving me a glass of the same and asking me to take small gulps every now and then, after a series of my throwing up into that red plastic bucket, kept near the cot!! I remember my father massaging my hands and legs and me swallowing it like some poison as it was unbelievably bland and my requests for flavoring it with some ghee or pickle was denied ruthlessly because of high temperature and stomach upset!! Kanjivellam flavored with a dash of salt was our indigenous home remedy to cure stomach upsets, prevent dehydration of the body and regain physical strength.

Though I got absorbed in my daily routine, at the back of my mind this thread linking back to my memory lane, was going on in a loop. As the habit goes, knowingly or unknowingly I started plowing through my memory fields which opened up a deluge of images that came flashing back to my mind. I saw our maid, Omakutti Chechi, asking my mother for that hot kanjivellam, just drained from the Kanjikalam, rice cooker before she left for my uncle’s house….it was a sort of energy drink for her. It was the same case with the worker Chothi, whom my father appointed every year to clean up our yard after the monsoons……..a hot bowl of Kanjivellam fetched him energy to dig the yard with a shovel for a couple of hours.

At this juncture of my thoughts, I shared what was going on in my head with CJJ and I saw his face lit up with a smile at the mere mention of “uppitta kanjivellam” aka salted rice stock and he added how the field workers in their estate knocked at the back door of their kitchen asking, “Chechee…..kurachu kanji vellam kitto…?“ meaning, “Ma’m …can we get some rice stock? " !!!! That’s when it struck me how this humble ordinary homely drink is woven into the lives of a Malayalee …..and I knew it was time for me to bring Kanjivellam into the limelight :)

Kanjivellam is not just an energy drink or a simple home remedy, it turns out to be our traditional alternative to modern shampoos. Yes, it was also used for hair care!!! I remember, in my early childhood, before I gained the courage to buy that blue bottle of Clinic Plus Shampoo, our hair wash on weekends included ceremonious soaking of a crushed and dried variety of herb called, ‘enja’ in Kanjivellam and later mixed with another leafy herb called, ‘vellilathaali’ as an organic alternative to shampoo. My maternal grandmother soaked ‘Pappadam’, Kerala wafers in ‘Kanjivellam’ to wash her was used to make the hair more stronger and shinier... So I would call this as Kerala’s ‘organic shampoo’ :)

This is again Kerala’s indigenous yet clever discovery for wrinkle –free cotton ‘Mundu before spray starch and powdered starch made its entry into the market. Washed clothes got a quick drench in Kanjivellam diluted with water and then hung on ropes to sun-dry and later ironed to get wrinkle free clothes and a crisp finish!

This might sound strange to some but if you go to a small town or village in Kerala, you will see men using Kanjivellam for mixing ‘Pinnakku’, a type of cattle food to feed cows…..I remember my uncle doing the same before milking the cow every morning when I was there to collect cow's milk, just up from slumber, with puffy eyes and hair standing in the air like that of Fido-Dido of 7Up!! You might also come across people using one-day-old ‘Kanjivellam’ as a plant food for Plantain or banana trees!

So that was ‘Kanjivellam’ playing the role of organic energy drink, home remedy, hair care, laundry starch, cattle food and plant food! :)

If you find this whole post silly, blame it on Mathew…he is the one who fired up my dead memory cells :) On a serious note, Thanks pal… did help me recollect some of the images I haven’t thought about in almost a decade!

Moral of the story – be careful while leaving comments in this blog, consequences can be as dangerous as this post :)

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. Wow..Mishmash..!!!!Thats really a great write up ...Congrats friend..!!

  2. Hey Mishmash

    My grandmother sometimes still drink kanjiivellam...and many people who work on farms rice fields still drink its not a weird post for me...nice the way your onam sadya pictures has been removed from the site which i had earlier mentioned....


  3. This post itself is an enrgy drink.Here i just started my morning and this post revitalised my brain and body..
    Though i were not much into drinking kanjivellam,during rainy and sicky season it remained a sincere friend.Perhaps this post is on its way to make history,scribing a much traditional healthy drink facing extinction.That too an ordinary drink of an aesthetic community of the world..
    Mish,it will be unfair if i congratulate for the picture.Its awesome dear !
    If a comment can evoke such a beautiful writing,its so Chweet..
    lucky that we have so many beautiful stars in this blog world..

  4. "Verum "kanji" aanalle? :D Moral vayichu, ennalum nammude mallu manassil pettunnu orma vannathu ithanu, am waiting for the dangerous consequences..(pls kollathe vidane,)
    pinne, my "kanji post" is in draft,I expect an attack from you when I post it.. ;)

  5. Mish,
    This might sound strange to some but if you go to a small town or village in Kerala, you will see men using Kanjivellam for mixing ‘Pinnakku’, a type of cattle food to feed cows

    Not at all strange.What would you do with litres of kanjivellam in a household?It is any day better not to throw the whole thing.

    Food for thought:
    Pazham Kanji(thale divasam ratriyile) with cheriya mulak(like tiny tiny-kappa -parangi in Malabar),curd,salt,pickle at around 11am

    Used to have it when in school as breakfast, because it was easier to have than dosas, lack of time you know :D

  6. I don't drink kanji vellam regularly. But, nothing comes as close to it to achieve crisply starched cotton dupattas :)

  7. The post though simple but beautifully written !!

  8. hahaha..actually loved reading this post..i have the same memories of kanjivellam except for the organic shampoo part...I was not a big fan of kanjivellam initially and took a liking for it over the a kid it was often our 'fake kallu' when the older folks at native had the real familiar with the cloth starch method as often I used to help mom with that for drying the saree ..i hated the smell though..

    this post reminds me of an incident ..a mallu priest was a guest of honour at a korean family's house...He was offered a special korean delicacy called rice porridge...and the priest told me he was humbled as much when it turned out to be our kanji!!;-P

    I think kanji vellam would be a great drink for the winter...maybe for the teetotallers it could be their version of the Glühwein..:-)

  9. Hey thats Elixir! Not an ounce of silliness in it, Shn! Lovely pic!

  10. This is really a cute post to make on humble kanjivellam. It really has a lot of use in our daily lives. I have used for hair care, energy drink, for the plants...etc
    You have dressed up the kanjivellam glass very well :)

  11. You should also put a disclaimer to mothers-- Daughters may ask for a glass of kanjivellam in the eve aftr reading this......
    just like iam gona now :D

  12. Shn, I know of it's use as used in our place too :-)

  13. I don't remember the lasttime i add this. Unlike yo i love it when i was at home,
    Knew ait was good for the stomach trouble.
    And i remember using it as starch for cotton sarees for my mom and elder sister. But for washing hair, that is indeed a new knowledge.

  14. I like kanjivellam with mango pickle - mouthwatering :-)

  15. Nice write up. The kanjivellam looks pretty neat. Who would have thought of making it look so cool.

  16. uppu itta kanjivallam is delish, shn. not bland at all. :D i used to ask for it.

  17. OMG What did you do to our paavam kanji vellam? Looks so pretty now..

    Hmm..karikkin vellam is my favorite. Sooo..get set goooo...a post on karikkin vellam next? :D

  18. Kanjivellam, a dash of salt and a drop of ghee - that's how I love it. I still use it as a fever remedy every time my daughter falls sick. Starch sprays can't hold a candle to kanjivellam when it comes to crisp cottons.
    Loved reading this post.

  19. LOL... i knew all abt various ways in which ganji, as we call, used except for that shampoo part!!! even today its my comfort food and my amma adds tadka of curry leaves and fried onions amd makes Ganji Saaru/rasam.
    and mishy, i love these kinds of 'silly' posts ;) pots which takes me down the memory lane and makes me happy :)

  20. Is that the picture of the Kanji vellam served at the 5 Star hotel next door ? Or maybe its on for sale at the latest fashion medic store.

    Brilliant presentation..the entire article..

  21. Mish,from this À La Carte of yours could you please select a few to set a dinner ? I am a bit confused.I would like to preapare a full mishmash dinner..(take your time plz..)

  22. loved this post dear!
    it did bring back loads of memories....
    kanji and kanjivellam is still staple at home for us .... its a fav with my kids too .... unlike me when i was a kid:)
    loved your are a true artiste.....

  23. You made a hopelessly homesick person feel just worse on a Saturday morning:(...hey very nice post and it brought back so many memories from childhood..!Cheers

  24. What a post have evoked a truck load of memories.I am reminded of a scene from a Mohanlal-Urvashi movie Kalippattam.There's a scene where Mohanlal explains to a pregnant Urvashi the pleasure of drinking Pazhanganji-oru pathrathil pazhanganji ittu,nalla kandari molagu njeradi,korachu uppum itte angane oru pidi pidichal undallo molleee...gosh!!!Divine!!!

  25. The pic is very gave a perfect "5*" look to kunjivellam and a supreb write-up...congrats

  26. shn, i didn't know u could use it as a shampoo..pappadam and kanjivellam?ew!!!!seen all the other uses. enjoyed reading ur write up!!

  27. Annita, hey thanks very much :)

    Rashmi, yeah i remember, my grandpa also used to drink the same....i think he preferred this to water while having lunch/dinner .....thanks for follow up on that case...really appreciate it!

    Ann, ayyo..enikku ethrakkum compliments thaangan vayya!!! :))) I really did not think that there will be takers for this post...sort of astonished to see such a warm reception from everyone of you :)

    Seena, hmm....enne kanji ennu vilichu alle...:)) mallu manassil kallamilla ennakkam :))) looking forward to ur knaji post....would like to see the thrissur touch to kanji :)

    Nikhil, enne kondu 'pazhankanji puranam' parayippikkum alle :)) will sure post that one....kurachu kazhiyatte...ellenkil enikku blog world-l eratta peru veezhum :D

    It's my life, oh yeah...dupattas as well cotton and hand loom clothes....but i switched to Revive later when i had to stay in hostel!

    Swati, Thank you :)

    Mathew, fake kallu...LOL....:))hmm...those Chinese and their neighbours call it congee...i was surprised when I first read about it....though they kind of dress it up with meat pieces too....i dont remember exactly, but somewhere i read an article on kanji-congee relation and it was written that the word congee was a Dravidian contribution to chinese/malay culture...learned it from tamilians during trade, it seems...yeah u re right, on a freezing day, a hot glass of kanji vellam can really give a kick or two :)

    Purnima, yes elixir it is! that was more ideal for my title :D

    Pravs, thanks dear :) didnt know how to capture such a humble drink with my humbler camera...finally a splash of colour worked! :)

    Vidya, oh myy...did u really ask for this??? :)

    Sunita, what do u call this at ur place...? pls do tell me the name .

    Happycook, next time when u cook rice, u can have it....doesnt require any extra work isnt it :) hmm...cotton sarees got their magic with this starchy water...kanji mukiya cotton saree randu side-l pidichu veyilathu ninnu unakkunnathu oru sthiram kazhcha aayirunnu elle...

    Bindhu, i need to spice it up something like that ...then only i can have it...:)

    Divya, thank you so much :)

    Bee, be the chairperson of kanjivellam lovers associations :D

    RP,hehehehh .:)) actually karikkin vellam has been in my list for more than an year now...but i wanted to include karikkin -kaaran too..u know that cycle guy with karikku hanging on two sides of his cycle...need to wait till i go home next time!

    Rachel, :)

    Jayashree, ur daughter takes it willingly or is she like me ..? :))

    Sia, if u call rice stock as ganji, what do you call the one with cooked rice in this rice stock? different name? hmm...with tadka and curry leaves, yeah i can also drink...the smell of curry leaves itself is a charmer :)

    ictizen, no that was kanjivellam at a beauty contest :D thank you so much....really appreciate your feedback!

    Ann, hmm....if you could tell me number of adults, meat preference, just a family meal or for guest, i could point out something!

    Nanditha, thank you :D where re u scraps....are u settled now?

    zo-ya, sorry ..didnt mean to make you more homesick :) keep your rice vessel and and in the next 30 minutes, it is all ready :)

    Divya, haa...ethu vaayichappo enikku kandari mulakitta pazhankanji kudikkan thonnee....ningal enne kondu ezhuthippikkathe vidilla alle :)

    Nilavu, thank you :) A warm welcome here!

    Mallugirl, it was more than a seems it helped to make hair stronger and shinier.....people even used to use plain kanjivellam regularly for health care....this pappadam one is better than the one with enja....i hated it as a child....nannayi kazhuki ellenkil athine naaru okke thalayil kaanum :)

    Thank YOU all for giving such a warm reception to this humble drink :)


  28. wow Mishmash...beautifully written post and lovely picture!!!!

  29. hey that was a very nice post..
    like the simple people in it..

    I never really liked kanjivellam..
    But I feel like having one now, thanks to your post..

    "I remember my uncle doing the same before milking the cow every morning when I was there to collect cow's milk, just up from slumber, with puffy eyes and hair standing in the air like that of Fido-Dido of 7Up!! "

    Perhaps the next post can be on that! :-)

  30. I am out of India and Your blog helps me to cook and feed myself thankyou very much...also get me your email address so that i can clarify my doubts....drop email to

  31. IT could happen only in MishMash.
    Kanji vellam getting the limelight. No words to say .

    But u traitor u changed ur Sunday edition. I dont subscribe to any blogs as I dont like my mailbox having lot of unread mails and then u decieve me.
    Paavam CJJ engane poyal Kanji vellom vechu vayaru narrenkendi varum.

  32. Very interesting read!

  33. I simply loved this post for the strikingly similar memories that it voked! thank you so much for these treasure like stories from your life! Truly a treat!

  34. Nicely written post ...

  35. great post mish, on th eweb, i have read an ammini ramachandran's article about kanji. that was really good, she had drawn up comparisons from across the world, esp. the asian countries. she had a site pepper trail, not a blog. search for it. an interesting one for those interested in kerala food.

    meanwhile, me too had that 'fever- association' with kanjivellam !

  36. Hi Mishmash !

    First, sorry i didn't answer your comment on my blog, but I'm always so glad to see you on my french blog ! ;)

    Your post on kanji is great ! Prince's favorite is with with payar, I love it with a bit of narang'achar ! I drink it whenever I'm sick, but not only...

    About Kerala organic shampoo, I taught my sister in law how to use the shampoos, soaps and creams of supermarkets and in exchange she taught me how to use the greem gram podi ! ;)

  37. incidentally, the chinese too partake kanji (congee to them).

    there are elaborate congee houses, where the gruel is cooked the same as us. except they do not strain the rice away, but leave it in a very very liquidy form.

    the chinese have special cuisines dedicated to be eaten with congee.

    anything that we do, the chinese appear to do more elaborately :(

  38. As usual, your posts always take me back.:)
    But Kanji or Kanjivellam are two things I don't like. Like you said, they used to make an appearance whenever we were ill. So, mentally, the association is still that.:)

  39. Hi shn.. The post was too good. I couldn't believe that u could write so much on the good old kanjivellam which generally goes down the drain. I too just love kanjivellam but u know one cannot afford to drink it daily coz it has lots of starch too. Anyways great work.

  40. I didnt know of the nutritional value of kanjiivellam till this post, and honestly the very thought of drinking it sounds horrible!

    Well written post...

  41. Shn..Only you can pull off something so simple like kanjivellam to this entertaining.Lovely write up.We too used it as a shampoo after putting 'seekakai'.

  42. Hi Shn, I am new to ur blog and tried out ur Kuttanadan Shrimp recipe. It turned out awesome! Thanks for sharing! I also wanted to try ur buttercream praline cake, but the buttercream recipe link that u have attached is not working anymore. They have made that a paid site. I was wondering if u could share that recipe with me if it is not too much trouble. Thanks in advance! I am not sure how I can share email with you. I do not want to post it here. I will keep checking this page for your response. Thanks again...SP

  43. I was never a fan of kanjivellam, unless it was in the kanji itself ;). But reading your post I am getting some strange cravings... it is just nostalgia I guess, your posts have that effect on me, shn... :) Nice presentation btw, I think this might be the sexiest kanjivellam pic ever!

  44. I have heard the power of this drink from my grandmother, never tasted it though... after your beautiful writeup, I've got to try it :)

  45. @Sig
    "sexiest kanjivellam pic ever!"

  46. Swapna, thank you :)

    The layman, thanks for dropping and really glad to know that you enjoyed the post..Well, writing about the Fid-Dido days, hmm...swantham kuzhi kuzhikkunna pole aakum...:))

    Amiable, very sweet of your drop few words and I am really happy I am of some help to some...well, if you have any doubt, feel free to drop a word here, I get email notification and hence your queries wont go unnoticed.

    pooja, hehehe....i thought posting this on a weekday would help the sunday visitors who come for recipes , from disappointment...avaru cheetha vilichalo ennu vicharichu nerathe post cheythathu...pakshe madam cheetha vilikkum enna karyam njan marannu poyee....:)))))))

    Candy, thank you :)

    Indyana, thanks for such a warm feedback...looks like childhood is similar to most in Kerala....

    Veenajan, thank you :)

    Renu, thank you! Well, I did check out Ms.Ammini's article and oh myy she has done a wonderful job..looks like she has done lot of reading before that one...thanks for the pointer :)

    Charline, firstly I dont remember which comment :P Coming to your blog is a pleasure , Charline.....I always admire your passion and enthusiasm to learn everything about Kerala and it just gives me a kick....that green gram podi is really good for hair care...far better than shampoos.....but i cant remember the last time I used it!

    Anon, thanks you for all that info....really appreciate that. but just oen doubt...we also dont strain rice for kanji...we cook rice in lots of water and use both cooked rice and stock for kanji...this kanjivellam actually is the rice stock...yeah to get that one, we strain the rice but not for kanji.

    Divya, thank you :)

    Aparna, aah.....i know I know....thank you :)

    Divz, hey are u back from Kerala? how was onam hols? yeah ...u re absolutely right about the starch and carb part....for the same reason, I cook rice with lot of water and strain it away....

    Kusublakki, hahahha....but it is not that is drinkable...but bland but some wont agree that too :))

    Maheswari, oh shall I send you a tight hug ? :P thank you so much for the encouragement.

    Anon, thanks for the feedback...happy to know that your family enjoyed the dish. As for the link, yeah it is a paid site now and that is the reason why the owner of the site asked me to remove the recipe which was part of the post earlier. I dont think it is fair on my part to give it offline . Sorry about that! Hope you can find another recipe on the web.

    Sig, kanjivellam and sexy..LOL :D thanks anyway....we had a good laugh reading ur comment :))

    mathew, :)


  47. I must admit..I have been reading quite a bit of your excellent stories and recipes lately. Excellent are quite a star. Great work especially for the 1st Gen NRI mallu community who are going through quite a few of the same emotions you bring out in your writing.
    Keep them coming!.

  48. hey auntie ....i was wondering if u had replied back to my comen tabout the recipies i had posted on u did not take your time ...if u did can u tell under what recpie did u post it in...beacuse i forgot under what recipe i asked with.
    thanks seby

  49. Sreeprakash, Thank you for that generous is a pleasure to know that people are coming here for not just recipes and also taking time read what I note down before introducing the recipe.....Thanks a lot for dropping few words here :)

    Sheby, hello sweetie, I actually wrote a comment for you on ur tandoori chicken recipe ....I had also replied to your comment you dropped on my chocolate dipped strawberry post......I was just wondering why you cant create a blog of your own, so it is easy to contact you! :)

  50. Hi Shn

    I am a great fan of your site... but I was searching for chilli chicken.. do you by any chance know how to make it... some of the indo chinese cooking.. would be great!
    And, yeah I tried your saya too, made like 14 vibavangal and it was excellent, thank you!

  51. it is a good post. my son who is 21 month old started drinking it . i was trying to feed my picky eater so many healthy foods.Nothing helped, Now kanjivellam is his favourite drink not pedisure not any other chocalate drinks. thanks

  52. Really nice article. I am in mysore native mangaluru. Even today my night food is brown rice kanji...

  53. I hail from Chennai and live in Toronto now. But used to have this Kanjivellam in Sabarimala. By far the best drink for good health, slimming down, taste and an awesome energy drink. Post like this always attract everyone as it is written right from the heart or gut! Bro - keep writing on such simple topics.


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