Once upon a time, a small village of ancient South India was plagued by a voracious and angry disease. The villagers tried all sorts of remedies to chase the deadly epidemic away, all in vain. They finally turned to the Goddess, the patron Goddess of the village, the mother, the saviour of all. So intense was their plea that it soon started to rain heavily (considered direct blessings in India). Some days later, a lady dressed in saffron colour drapes, adorned with a huge red ‘pottu’, with eyes bulging beautifully and thick black hair tied in the traditional folk way, came to the village. She sat under a ‘Margoza’ tree on the village outskirts and claimed she could cure everyone; and she apparently did. Day after day she tended to the villagers getting them rid of their disease through herbal mixtures and prescribing a special diet. She smeared turmeric paste on their blistering, plagued body parts and fanned them with Margoza leaves. She listened to their worries and freed them of all psychological troubles. She counselled families and graced them with wise thoughts. She became the mother of all, the source of strength and courage but most importantly the curer of all ills. She was very fond of a simple rice porridge that the villagers made, and would relish plates of it lovingly brought to her by the villagers, hearts filled with gratitude.
Then came the day she had to leave, the village was now healthy. The people started fretting, fearing that if she left, the plague will again come and they will be left at the mercy of this terrifying health eater all alone. So, they tried all means to keep the lady with them. But she insisted she had to leave but promised them that each time that they needed her, she would be present. They just had to come with some rice porridge and place it under the Margoza tree and remind themselves of all the things she had taught them; eat healthy, use natural antiseptics such as the margoza leaves and turmeric and always be clean. So, she left the village impregnating the people with a powerful vibration that reverberates today across the world through all Mariamman devotees. Yes, she is today revered as Mari Amma, the Goddess of rain and remover of diseases. 🙂
So, you might be wondering why all the story? 🙂 Well, the rice porridge is non other than the ‘Canjee’. Some of you might be experienced Canjee eaters, while others always had questions about what it could be. The Canjee is a very ancient dish, it even predates the ritualistic purpose to which it is strongly attached to in Mauritius and the Indian diaspora where the Mariamman cult is prevalent.
The original form of the Canjee is a simple rice porridge cooked with cereals, producing a semi-thick liquid. It is very popular in Southern India as a summer food- very similar to the cooling ‘Koozh’ mainly prepared with ‘Ragi’. It is a commoner’s food, yet very nutritious.
I will not go much into the details of the Canjee and it’s varieties within India and across the world. I will be a little lazy this time and leave you to what Wikipedia says (quite informative); Wikipedia on Canjee. Some of you will be surprised by the far reaching facets of this dish. Hint; it is also a Ramadan special in Tamil Nadu.
Now, when we talk of Mauritius, it is always an interesting amalgam of food or in the case of the Canjee, maybe an adaptation. The Canjee is mostly a sacred offering in Mauritius (remember the Goddess story? It has travelled with immigrants when they settled in Mauritius around two centuries ago), all Tamil families of the island either hold ceremonial offerings of the Canjee to the Goddess in their homes or at the temple at least once a year. The Tamil month Adi (mid July to mid August) is somewhat the official Canjee season and there are Canjee offerings at some temples weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays (considered very auspicious during the month Adi). 🙂
Compared to the Indian version, the Mauritian Canjee is thick, with generous additions of curd and spring onions. It is also eaten with a series of condiments and vegetable preparations; these need a separate post for themselves, which might hopefully come soon.
For now, here is the long awaited recipe of the Canjee, done the Mauritian way.
- 1 Cup rice, ideally Raw rice
- 1/2 Cup whole mung beans
- 1 Cup curd or to taste
- 1 medium onion chopped into rings
- 1 bunch of spring onion, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Wash and soak the mung beans for around 2 hours.
- Wash the rice till the water runs clear
- Pressure cook the mung beans with water covering them, for two whistles
- Then without removing the beans, added the rice in the pressure cooker along with 4 cups of water.
- Pressure cook the rice along with mung beans for around 3 whistles or till cooked and rice is mushy.
- Turn off the flame and add the curd followed by onion rings.
- Add salt and garnish with chopped spring onion.
Serve hot with Chutneys, sautéed greens, brinjal, sautéed peppers and especially sautéed ‘Mooringa’ leaves. 🙂
Note: The recipe here is given for small quantities. Traditionally, the Canjee is not pressure cooked. It is prepared in large vessels, but the procedure is more or less the same with longer cooking time. There are specific preparations for the accompaniments, i will write about them soon. The ratio of mung beans to rice can be adjusted to taste, I personally like it full of mung beans. Usually, onions are not added during religious offering, well it depends.
A perfect comfort food! 🙂
Till next time, goodbye!