Do you like playing Holi ? The festival of Colours that is celebrated in North India predominantly ! That has always been my favourite day of the year. Our typical day used to start at the crack of dawn, with a knock on the door with my friends or neighbours ready to pick me up for the “Holika Dehan” ritual. We then head towards the corner of the street where almost every single person in the colony or Society was present. Enjoying the warmth ( since Holi falls during the month of March, when it’s still some chill in the air remaining ), we used to chat, laugh and wish each other. And then after the distribution of the barley flakes ( another ritual with spiritual significance ), there started the real “Holi”, the one with splash of colours. And then the usual roaming around, searching for the ones who didn’t like to play and colour them specifically… and then the food… Everyone used to have a table full of snacks and sweets at their places and we, the kids, used to get a lot of it. What used to happen to our stomach later on is a different story though.
Drinking “Bhaang” is a popular ritual during this festival. And for those who weren’t allowed to drink this slightly alcoholic drink, the alternative was Kaanji or “Kanji Vada” to be precise. Kaanji is a traditional Punjabi drink, that is commonly made during Winters, following the unusual method of Fermentation. Typically, its prepared with black carrots, which impart Kanji its naturally bright colour. But if you don’t have black carrots, adding beetroot gives this rich dark purple shade to the drink. And obviously enhances the flavours as well. You may also add some turnips to the kanji, which provides that tangy and edgy taste.
Kaanji is made using some basic ingredients from your kitchen – carrots, mustard powder, red chilli powder and black salt along with water. The mustard added to the kanji is responsible for the fermentation process and helps in keeping the body warm in the chilly winters of the north. Hence serving the whole purpose of drinking it during the festival of Holi, to keep your body warm and safe after you have played with cold water. It also acts as a probiotic drink and is extremely good for bloated stomach. I will do a post very soon on the benefits of Fermented food.
In my household, Mum used to prepare the basic mixture and then keep the pitcher ( Martbaan, to be precise ! ) under the sun & allow to ferment in a week. The fermentation time really depends on how hot the Sun is during that time and in your region. Which makes the fermentation process quite variable and within the range of 2-6 days. The carrots and beetroot get pickled in the process of fermentation and can be served as side pickle with the simple dal-rice or any Indian main course. They have a lovely fermented flavour and aroma.
Kaanji is usually served along with Urad dal vadas (black gram fritters) which are soaked in the drink. Its very similar to the famous Dahi Vada, minus the Dahi. The process of making the vada for dahi vada is the same as that for kanji vada. And both are my fav snacks, light and refreshing. That reminds me, a friend has asked me to post the recipe for Dahi Vada, since she is a fan. Will do that soon, but first lets learn how to make Kaanji Vada
Prep Time: 10-12 minutes
Cooking Time: 3-5 days
Serves: 4-6 people
Course:– Appetizer, drink
Cuisine:– Punjabi, North Indian
Spice Level: Sour, tangy
Recipe Level: Easy
Shelf Life: Up to 2 days at room temperature, up to 3-4 days in the Fridge
Serving Suggestion: With Vadas ( recipe below ) as a snack in itself, or as a welcome drink
Nutritional Facts:– Cooling, appetizing and rich in Pro-biotics.
What you need?
- 5-6 medium sized carrots ( Gajar, gaazar )
- 2 small beetroots
- 8 cups water – approx 2 litres ( filtered or purified )
- 2 tsp red chili powder
- 4 tbsp mustard powder seeds
- 2 tsp black salt ( or more if required )
- Some mint to crush on top, optional
How to make?
- First of all, grind mustard seeds into a fine powder and keep aside.
- Now, rinse and peel all the carrots and beetroots. Then chop into long pieces.
- Mix all the ingredients in a glass pitcher or ceramic jars
- Cover with a lid or muslin cloth and keep the jars in the sun for 3-5 days, stirring with a wooden spoon once every day to avoid sedimentation
- Taste the drink after 3 days, it should have turn sour. If that’s not the desired sourness, keep it there for 1 more day and taste again. When the Kanji starts tasting tangy and sour, it means the drink is fermented well. Do not keep it for more than 6 days since otherwise it will go all bad.
- You may serve it straight away plain like that or refrigerate for a few hours and serve chilled.
If you are serving the full dish as Kaanji Vada – follow the below procedure to make Vadas. I will do a post very shortly for the detailed step by step procedure
- Soak ½ cup Urad dal (black gram) in water overnight.
- Drain and grind the urad dal with 1 green chili, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp fennel seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ inch ginger and salt with very less water to a thick batter. I only added almost 1 tbsp of water to this batter. Whip it very well so it fluffs up nicely.
- Heat oil for deep or shallow frying. spoon the batter into the hot oil and deep fry the vadas on low flame till they are golden brown.
- Drain on kitchen tissues, and then soak in normal water for 20-25 mins.
- Next, press the vadas between the palms of your hands to squeeze out the excess water.
- Soak these vadas in the kanji for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator
- Serve chilled, with some crushed mint leaves on top.
Notes and tips:
- Beating the batter for vada is very important since that ensures Vadas soak less oil and are made soft and fluffy
- Traditionally black carrots are used for the preparation, but as we have used beetroot and carrots both in this recipe, the result is almost the same.
- You may also use Boondi ( small gram flour balls ) instead of vadas to add in Kaanji. I have used both vadas and boondi to make this more delicious.
- If you are looking for more appetizing drinks, you may like to check my recipe for Jal Jeera, Spiced butter milk , Watermelon carrot drink, Virgin Pina Colada
Linked to Breakfast Recipes event running @ Cooking for all seasons.