‘Poita bhat’ or ‘pazhamkanji’: India’s fermented rice finds its place under the sun

‘Masterchef Australia’ is late to the get together. India’s fermented rice dishes, from Bengal’s ‘panta bhat’ to Kerala’s ‘pazhamkanji’, have lengthy been shifting up the culinary ladder from farms to eating places, as gourmets uncover their many advantages

Panta bhat, trending after it was featured in Masterchef Australia by contestant Kishwar Chowdhury, is understood by many names in India — poita bhat (Assamese), pakhala bhat (Odiya), pazhaya sadam (Tamil), geel bhat (Bihar), chaddannam (Telugu) and pazhamkanji (Malayalam). Call it what you’ll, however fermented rice is consolation meals for a lot of in India and in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have their very own variations.

Author and tutorial Krishnendhu Ray, affiliate professor of Food Studies at New York University, says there are three causes for the recognition of fermented meals generally and rice specifically. “One, the idea of a national cuisine is passé. We know that there are regional and sub-regional cuisines. Two, the 21st Century has seen the death of the taste for cold and sweet in the American century of taste. Realising the ill-effect of sodas and colas, people are going for tepid and sour foods. Three, studies have shown that gut health is closely related to the immune system, health, and mental health. Earlier, the ambition was to boil and cook everything to kill all microbes. But now, we know that certain microbes are necessary for our health. Fermented food is rich in microbes, yeast, and mould, all necessary for our health.”

Krishnendu says that, like music and textiles, tastes in meals also can journey from the subaltern to the mainstream and he attributes the recognition of fermented rice gruel to that motion.

Fermented rice gruel, he says, has existed for hundreds of years in a single type or the different in each place the place rice is grown, particularly in the period earlier than refrigeration. But it was the meals of the frequent man, not of royalty. “That was one of the reasons why it was not served in restaurants. Now, fermented food has caught the attention of gourmets but we have to wait and see if it is a fad and how long it lasts,” says Krishnendu.

Fermented for advantageous eating

As the locavore motion positive aspects in power, regional staples like fermented rice finds a place in the sun — and in upscale eating places round India. Regi Mathew, chef and culinary director of Chennai-based Kappa Chakka Kandhari, has been serving pazhamkanji and cherupayar kanji in his restaurant since 2018. “Diners were pleasantly surprised when they saw it on the menu for lunch. Unless we serve these ethnic foods, they will vanish from our plates. Nutritious and packed with probiotics, pazhamkanji used to be a staple in households in Kerala,” says Regi. He speaks nostalgically of sharing the pazhamkanji that farm labourers working their land in Kottayam used to deliver for lunch. “Pazhamkanji reminds me of vacations, home and childhood,” he provides.

Agreeing along with his sentiments, chef Suresh Pillai, culinary director of Raviz Hotels, gushes about pazhamkanji. Although it isn’t on the formal menu of Raviz, he says there are numerous expatriates who ask for it. “We prepare it for them. Cooked rice is soaked overnight in water with shallots and bird’s eye chilli. In the morning, it is served with chutney, pickle, fish curry or fish fry (sun-dried fish fry), curd, pappadam and, occasionally, kappa (tapioca),” he says.

The sides served with the fermented rice differ from place to place. Even the variety of hours it’s soaked can differ. When it’s soaked for greater than 48 hours, the cooked rice releases a small quantity of alcohol, which has a kick.

According to Regi, pazhamkanji has a cooling impact on the physique and that’s the reason farm labourers used to favor it to cooked rice.

‘Pazhamkanji’ with fish fry and fish curry

‘Pazhamkanji’ with barbeque and fish curry
| Photo Credit: Sreejith R Kumar

Combined with a wide range of sides, pazhamkanji can also be now provided by small devoted eateries, the place it’s typically the solely dish on the menu. Moopilans, maybe the first in Thiruvananthapuram to serve solely pazhamkanji, started 5 years in the past. “For three-four months, there were queues at our place. Seeing its popularity, other joints also began serving it,” says Vijayakumari V, who has reopened her small eatery after the lockdown. Now, solely parcels are being given.

In Orissa and West Bengal, it’s often served with potato and fried fish. Regi says that in Kerala, the fish curry served it with the pazhamkanji was additionally often the earlier day’s fish curry. “Our older generation never wasted food. Pazhamkanji was a way of making the best of the what was in the house when there were no refrigerators. Soaking the rice overnight broke down the micro-nutrients in the rice, making it easily digestible,” says Regi.

In Malayalam, kanji is usually used as a derogatory time period to confer with somebody who is just not quick-witted or in with the instances. From the seems of it, this may quickly must be modified to maintain with the instances as kanji takes centre-stage in the culinary world.

2021-07-23 17:08:13

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