I remember asking for extras the first time I tried Thari Kanji. That was many years ago in Mumbai at one of my former colleague's house during an iftar. Saleema's family hails from Kozhikode; this light, sweetened drink has been a recurring feature in her family's iftar. I was still new to Malabari cuisine at that point except for popular signatures like the Thalasseri biryani. This has changed after multiple visits over the past decade to Kozhikode, now one of my favourite food cities in India.
I experienced a dejavu moment, a sense of nostalgia at the iftar promotion at the Grand Hyatt Kochi. The second time in four years that I was at this hotel during the month of Ramadan and experienced their elaborate iftar; the first thing that I sampled was the Thari kanji.
Saleema's family now lives in Abu Dhabi and just like many people in the Middle East who call Kozhikode home. They get very nostalgic about Thari Kanji. For Saleema, this is an endearing childhood memory and reminds her of her late parents. She still breaks her Ramadan fast on many days with a glass of this mildly flavoured delicacy.
The name itself is a tad misleading. Although it's called thari kanji (kanji is the Malayalam word for porridge or gruel), this is not actually a porridge. I noticed quite a few diners at the Malabar Café at Grand Hyatt Kochi, break their fast with a few varieties of dates and a large glass of Thari Kanji. One of the diners told me how this rich drink can keep you going even for a couple of hours after you break your fast.
Also Read: Have Digestive Issues? Try This Special Kanji Recipe Recommended By A Nutritionist
Chef Selvaraj has perfected the hotel's recipe for thari kanji (see recipe) and tells me that even the youngest members of a family can easily digest this semolina drink. Semolina is easy to digest; there are also some versions that incorporate vermicelli. According to him, it's easy to make and is a 'cooling' dish, which makes it ideal during the summer months. He also adds that there are slight variations across Kerala. For instance, his version does not use cardamom that is used in some variations and adds a different flavour profile. It's not lumpy like a typical porridge.
Semolina, milk and coconut milk are the main ingredients aside from fried nuts and raisins; some versions add dates to the mix too. It's tough to box this drink as sweet or savoury. Locals in Kozhikode also add that this drink eases the cramps. The other unique twist in the Malabari version is the fried shallots. These finely chopped shallots are fried till they are golden brown and add a sweet taste to the drink. This refreshing and delicious drink makes a perfect summer drink and also a healthy beverage around the year. You can try our simple recipe:
Thari Kanji - Recipe:
Recipe courtesy: Chef Selvaraj, Malabar Cafe, Grand Hyatt Kochi
Semolina 100 gm
Milk 800 ml
Salt a pinch
Sugar 100gm (you can reduce this depending on your preference)
Coconut milk 200ml
Shallots (finely sliced) 30gm
Ghee 30 ml
Cashew nut 25 gm
Raisins 10 gm
Method of Preparation:
Boil milk in a pot.
Add semolina into it and cook well.
Add sugar, salt and coconut milk.
Check the seasoning, and heat the ghee in a pan.
Fry shallots till they turn golden brown. Add the raisins and cashew. Fry for a little longer
Transfer it to the porridge and serve hot
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.