Rice gruel (kanji) is a favourite food with Keralites. Prepared by boiling rice in water, ‘kanji’ helps overcome fatigue and enables easy digestion. It also maintains the water content in the body. Another advantage of rice gruel is that it prevents diseases like fever and diarrhoea.
The main constituents of the dish are rice and water. Depending on the amount of these items and by adding other ingredients with a variety of nutritional values, kanji varies.
Types of the rice gruel tagged as 'Karkidaka kanji':
This is a type of rice gruel is prepared by boiling rice in water that is 14 times the amount of rice. Only the water is consumed. When ginger and rock salt are dissolved in it, ‘mandam’ improves digestion as well as health.
Take rice and water in the ratio of 1:8. Broken fresh raw rice is would be ideal. Boil it with coriander seeds, ginger, pepper, long pepper, rock salt and green gram. Also add asafoetida powder heated in oil. This gruel is called ashtagunamandam. The benefits are increased digestion, smooth passage of urine, production of more blood and good health.
Crush barley into powder, fry it and prepare gruel by boiling it in water. Sieve the water and vadyamandam is obtained. The gruel is ideal to ease difficulties caused by throat infection, piles and related diseases. It also enables smooth motion.
It is prepared by boiling fried rice or paddy in water. This preparation will solve issues like vomiting, diarrhoea, thirst and fever. It is also helpful in treating excessive vomiting during pregnancy.
Take rice and water in 1:14 ratio. Boil and consume both. It is light on the stomach and is easily digestible. Peya is good for treating diarrhoea and improving health. When the water content is lesser, the gruel is termed ‘Yoosham’.
It is a gruel prepared by boiling rice in water, which is four times more. There is more rice in this preparation. Vilepi helps a person put on weight. It also reduces the body temperature.
When rice is boiled in water that is six times more, the gruel is called yavagu. Sometimes, rice and pulses are boiled together. Then, the gruel is called ‘Krisara’. It can also be prepared by boiling rice and black gram. Another variety is by boiling rice, black gram and sesame seeds together.
After a bout of fever or other serious diseases and also following ‘panchakarma’ treatment, mandam, peya, vilepi and yoosham can be taken. This will strengthen the digestive powers. ‘Odassam’ or rice is consumed only afterwards.
Rice gruel prepared with various Ayurvedic medicines are much beneficial to health. The medicine added should be specific to the disease the person who takes the kanji suffers from. These medicinal gruels will help keep away conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, joint pain and rheumatism.
Karkidaka kanji enjoys much popularity in Kerala. The ideal time to take it is during supper in the Malayalam month of Karkidakam (July-August). It can be consumed from ten days to the entire month. Having this gruel after a session of massages like ‘uzhichil’ and ‘pizhichil’ is also much beneficial. In case panchakarma treatment is done when Karkidaka kanji is consumed, the body will be purified.
If Karkidaka kanji is to make the right impact one should abstain from alcohol, tobacco, meat, fish, eggs, addictive substances, excessive physical effort and long journeys. One should also try to get enough sleep.
How to prepare Karkidaka kanji
To make this gruel, take one-tenth of Ayurvedic medicines to the amount of rice. Fenugreek, raw rice and broken rice can also be used. Another combination is fenugreek, njavara rice and green gram. To this mixture, add coconut milk and cumin seeds along with salt. This will keep body heat away and provide good health.
Karkidaka Kanji packets containing rice with husks, fenugreek and various Ayurvedic medicines are now widely available in the market. They can be boiled with coconut milk. Readymade kits are also on offer.
Root of Ayurvedic herbs in Kerala like ‘kurunthotti’, ‘kayyonni’, ‘parpadaka’ grass, ‘cheroola’, ‘chittaratha’, ‘kozhuppa’, ‘cherupulladi’, ‘balikkaruka’ and ‘cherucheera’ can be crushed and added to water, which is then boiled along with rice, coconut milk, a little ghee and salt. The resulting gruel is a form of Karkidaka kanji.
Another variety of Karkidaka kanji is prepared using herbs like ‘thazhuthama’, ‘keezhar nelli’, ‘valli uzhinja’, ‘nilappana’, ‘vishnukranthi’, ‘poovamkurunthal’, ‘muyalcheviyan’, ‘karuka’, ‘thirunali’, ‘mukkutti’, ‘panikkoorka’, touch-me-not, ‘sankhupushpam’ (butterfly pea flower), ‘avanakkam’ ‘adutheendippala’ and ‘cherukadaladi’.
The gruel for Karkidakam can also be made with njavara rice, fenugreek, cumin seeds, ‘ayamodakam’, garlic, shallots, coconut, ‘kurunthotti’ and ‘cherula’ root.
Take red raw rice, prepare gruel. When it boils, immerse touch-me-not, ‘kudangal’, ‘chanagalamparanda’, ‘neyyulli’ and ‘karuka’, which are crushed and tied in a cloth. Consume the rice gruel with crushed pepper, powdered cumin seeds, ginger powder and a small piece of cinnamon. This Karkidaka kanji should be taken warm.