Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kanji Kootan

I am not sure whether you have heard about this dish. I had never heard about it until after marriage.  Kanji is familiar dish similar to porridge but is not sweet. It is rice cooked in lots of water which is usually served when you are sick with a pinch of salt and some pickle. We Malayalees love to have it as breakfast, lunch or dinner along with some chutney and Mung bean curry (payar vevichathu). There are several combos that are served with kanji. Mmm……I am sure by now that u might have guessed what this is all about…right? Kootan is a Malayalam (the language spoken in Kerala, India) word for curry. So Kanji-kootan iliterally means curry served with kanji. Wait! You are not completely right……Not everything that is served with kanji is called kanji-kootan.

Kanji-kootan is traditionally served with kanji on a special occasion called Kanji sadya in some parts of South kerala. Sadya as you may know means banquet. It’s a big feast associated with a special occasions like marriage, birthday, childbirth, festival etc. where a huge assortment of vegetarian dishes is served on a banana leaf. Kanji sadya is similar to a sadya where people sit cross-legged on the floor (as in typical sadya) and the meal is served on banana leaf. Kanji sadya is a part of festive celebration during November-January in temples.  It is very common during Sabarimala season. I was a part of it at my hubbys tharavadu (ancesteral home) for the first time.

Unlike sadya, the dishes served are only kanji and kanji-kootan. But people attend it in large numbers. At my hubbys tharavdu, it was conducted every year until recently. As it was conducted at the same time every year, no one was personally invited. People would hear of it by word of mouth. By the time the food was served, there would be a minimum of 150-200 people. No pandals are built nor are mats laid. Everyone finds their place in the courtyard (tharavadu muttam) under shady places. They sit cross legged.  A hole is made in the ground in front of them into which a slightly wilted banana leaf is placed. When Kanji is poured into the banana leaf, it forms a cone like vessel. (Sorry,  I do not have an image for the same) Kanji is had with jackfruit-leaf shaped into a spoon (kumbil). Kanji-kootan is served on a separate banana leaf. Sometimes instead of digging a hole, coconut leaflets are bent inside out and shaped into a semicircle. The wilted banana leaf is placed on top of this semicircle. When Kanji is served, banana leaf sinks into the hollow of the semicircle, thus preventing kanji from flowing outside the banana leaf (that's not a bad idea).

Kanji kootan is made of a combination of seasonally available root vegetables like elephant yam (chena), taro root (chembu), Yucca/tapioca (kappa), Chinese potato (koorka), Asiatic yam (kachil/kavathu), raw plaintain/banana (vazhakka) and Chickpeas (Kadala) with coconut paste and spices. Here’s how I made it.

Chickpeas-1 cup
Elephant yam-1/2 (diced)
Taro root-4 medium (diced)
Tapioca/yucca-1 small (diced)
Raw banana-1 diced
Coconut- 1 cup+3 tbsp
Cumin seeds-1tsp
Garlic -3 big cloves
Coriander powder-1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
Peppercorns-2 tbsp
Mustard seeds-1 tsp
Dry red chilies-3
Curry leaves-1 sprig
Coconut Oil-2tbsp

Boil tapioca in lots of water. Drain out the water. Repeat it 2 more times. Keep it aside. Pressure cook the chickpeas for 2-3 whistles. Cook yam, taro root and raw banana until done (you can add taro root and banana after yam is half-cooked). Combine everything in a big vessel along with salt. Slightly mash them and keep on medium flame.

Grind 1 cup coconut along with cumin seeds, garlic, coriander powder, turmeric and peppercorns into a paste (neither too coarse nor too fine). Mix it with the cooked veggies and cook for 10 mins. Season with mustard seeds, red chilies and curry leaves in 1 tbsp oil. In the remaining 1 tbsp oil fry 3 tbsp of coconut until golden brown and add to the cooked veggies. Combine them well. Enjoy with kanji and pickle. It can be had as a side dish with rice and chapathi. It can be a meal on its own.
Kanji (with shredded coconut) and Kanji-kootan

1. You can replace chickpeas with mung beans or you could use both.
2. Adjust the spices according to your taste
3. Cut Yam can be found in the frozen section of Indian stores


sindhuram said...

chembu vechu undakkam alle ...chembu aavumbo vevichal mathiyalle ..vellam kalayendalllo ...

Urmila said...

chembinu vellam kalayanda sindhoo

Suja Sugathan said...

Wow nalla recipe aanallo, love this kanji kootan,real comfort food and healthy too.

Yummy Team said...

Kanji kottan ennu kettitte ella..Ekadesham thiruvathira puzhukku poleyundu..Kurachu vithyasangale ullu..Athu ente fav annu..Ethu ennelum try cheyyam!

Urmila said...

thanks suja...

thanks for visitting yummy team...athe ekadeshsham puzhukkupole thanne....try cheythittu parayane

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