Updated: Jun 23, 2021
Every culture in the world has a rice kanji, or gruel variation, it is one of the most basic dishes on the planet. Simple and nutritious, kanji has proved to be essentail for survival, especially during times of war or natural catastrophes. However, it has evolved to include cultural and regional variations across all of Asia, Africa and South America. Every region in India has many recipes for this dish that vary in spices or the type of rice used, but essentially stay the same. Simple, lightly flavored and meant to sustain and satisfy. The Indian kanji also has cultural significance and has been part of the religious ceremony as an offering to the gods, and today in Ayurvedic medicine for health and well-being.
In addition, we are most familiar with just a few rice grain varieties in India and across the world, the most common being basmati and Jasmine rice. However, in India local varieties are making a comeback due to a changing palate, demand for the exotic and small cultivars filling niche markets with specialized varietals. This recipe calls for the Jeerakhasa or Khama rice varietal, small, delicately flavored and quick cooking. This rice is essential for this dish, if you can find this varietal make sure you use it for this recipe. More on rice varietals from India here.
This is a very delicate kanji that includes the flavor of dried tuna from the coastal shores of Kerala. The delicious Jeerakhasa rice with with mild spices and infused with the "umami" of dried tuna are the essence of a comforting and satisfying dish. This is a quite but speculat dish, one that you will go back to repeatedly. This cookbook was sent to me by a friend, Sunid, who I know from my school days many moons ago. This is a cookbook not just about recipes, but tradition, family, and love. A family written cookbook, where they have shared closely guarded secrets that have been handed down through generations. Thank you Sunid again, this cookbook will always have a special place amongst my collection and heart. Please order this cookbook, a must for all of you, from here.
For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.
1 cup Jeera kasala/khaima rice, or any short grain variety
4 teaspoons (Minced into a powder) + 1/2 cup salted dried tuna cut into 1/2 inch even squares from Kerala
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup grated coconut, frozen ok
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced (optional)
Ghee, served on the side
Mix the rice, shallots and 1 teaspoon of finely minced (almost to a powder) tuna and cook in a rice cooker on the porridge setting. If you do not have a rice cooker, cook with 12 cups water. The finished porridge should have a semi-runny consistenc. Taste for salt and adjust.
While the rice is cooking, mix together the grated coconut, turmeric and cumin and purée to a smooth paste. Set aside. Add the oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Drain the tuna and add and fry till lightly browned on both sides. Add the chili powder and toss for a few seconds and remove from the heat. Set aside.
When the rice has finished cooking, add the turmeric paste, stir well to mix in, and cook on a slow simmer for 10-15 minutes to get rid of the raw flavors.
Serve the kanji in deep bowls topped with the fried tuna, some cilantro if needed and ghee on the side for those who would like some.