Vishu is the new year according to the Malayalam Zodiac Calendar. You start the year off with something nice and auspicious – by seeing the Kani as the first thing in the morning. After that it is time for breakfast. For many of us we start the first meal of the new year with Vishu Kanji. Kanji is a a rice porridge typically eaten with coconut chutney, papad, and stir fried beans or vegetables.
For Vishu this standard kanji recipe where each component is cooked separately takes on a slightly different form. In this version the beans and rice are mixed together and coconut milk is added to make it creamy. The version popular in the Kochi area is lightly sweetened with jaggery – as sweet start to the new year !
There are many variations of Vishu Kanji, some thick like a cake that you can slice into and some thinner more like a soup. Some are brown and sweetened with jaggery while others are pristine white or savory. In our family we are used to the sweet version – after all it is a celebration. But towards central Kerala the savory versions are preferred and served with mixed vegetable avial or jackfruit avial.
Whether it is sweet or savory, whether it looks brown or white there are three main ingredients in this dish – rice, beans and coconut. Coconut milk is added to the cooked rice and beans and lightly flavored with savory spices like ginger and dry roasted cumin.
The recipe is a bit similar to payasams, but not as sweet. This is not served as a dessert but as a delicious beginning for the new year. There is plenty time left in the day for that sugar high !
Unlike payasams there is no sweet spices like cardamom here. Just a pinch of dried ginger and sometimes cumin. No fried raisins or cashew nut are used to decorate it either – all these are reserved for a sweeter cousin payasam. In fact if you have left overs , add more jaggery and coconut milk. Mix and warm it. Sprinkle some cardamom powder and garnish with fried cashew nuts and raisins and call it a payasam 🙂 .
I like to have my vishu Kanji warm in a semi solid form. Vishu Kanji thickens as it cools down. If you let it cool down completely you could make laddus (or vishu katta ) with it or slice and serve it as breakfast cakes.
The beans in the picture above is brown beans or cow peas. You could use the mung beans or asuki beans as well when these are not available. The brown color seemed fitting considering that I had unakkalari and jaggery. Unakkalari is a raw rice with most of the bran intact – similar to the the brown rice, but more delicious. This is the rice of choice for sweet deserts like Nei Payasam or Pal payasam as it cooks much faster than the traditional red parboiled rice. But it is difficult to find this rice outside of Kerala. The dish tastes delicious even when made with a a mix of brown rice and parboiled rice or regular white rice.
These are the steps to making vishu Kanji. These are last years pictures, I had run out of cow peas and so made these with mung beans – but you could use butter beans and even black eyed peas.
So here is how to make the sweet Vishu Kanji with jaggery. This recipe is made in pressure cooker which makes the cook time less than 30 minutes. It can be done in a thick bottomed pot like dutch oven / or two pots working in tandem – one for rice and the other for beans. This method will increase the cook time and will require more water as well.
Sweet Vishu Kanji
- ½ C Raw rice
- 1/2 C Unakkalari Notes
- 1/4 C Cow Peas / Vanpayar Notes
- 1/3 C Grated Jaggery See Notes For Substitutions
- 1/4 C Coconut Milk Thick Cream
- 1/2 Tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 Pinch Ginger Powder
- 4 - 5 C Water
- 1 Pinch Salt
- 1/2 C Grated Coconut
- Soak the brown beans in plenty of water for 30 minutes or the previous night.
- In a pressure cooker add the drained beans and 1 C water and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
- While the beans are cooking , wash and drain the rice/s. Soak the jaggery in warm water and set aside.
- Add the rice to the pressure cooker, along with 3 C water a pinch of salt.
- Cook till done - (2 whistles ) - a little longer than the recommended cooking time for rice.
- Once the pressure is released naturally , open the lid . Mix the contents and add salt , ginger and toasted cumin powder . Heat on low and add the coconut milk . Mix well bring the contents to a simmer.
- Add the jaggery water. Mix, taste and adjust to taste. Bring to a slow simmer , sprinkle the coconut on top and tun off the heat.
- Serve warm.
- Unakkalari is sometimes available in Indian grocery stores.
- If unakkalari is not available use all raw rice or a mix of raw and parboiled rice.
- Asuki beans mung beans , butter beans , anasazi or pinto beans can all be good substitutes for cow peas in this dish.
- Dark brown sugar or brown sugar with few drops of molasses or Mexican piloncillo can be substituted for jaggery.
- If using fresh coconut milk - cook the rice and beans in the thin coconut milk and use the thick milk towards the end to adjust seasoning .
- For a thinner, soupy consistency add more water along with jaggery and coconut milk.
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear about it ! Leave a COMMENT, RATING , share a photo and TAG me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK OR GOOGLE+
If planning to make it the old fashioned way using fresh coconut milk, you might find this useful
YOU MIGHT LIKE