Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pez - reaserch roundup

A story on Pez written by me was published in the Saturday (29 June) edition of Times of India, Goa.

In it I comment on how I found my perfect bowl of pez masquerading as porridge on the distant island of Singapore a few years ago!

Researching this article was fun. I already knew that Pez/ Kanji/ Rice porridge is a part of many cuisines around India as well as the world, but to verify that I sent out a mail to friends asking for a little help.

"I am working on an article on rice gruel/porridge, that is available in a variety of cuisines Indian as well at international. Called Pez/pej/ Kanji/Porrige it is a dish in which rice is cooked in lots of water and can be served with a variety of condiments. Does this sound like something you have come across in your cuisine? Would love any and all info. Recipes would be awesome!"

Friends were more than generous with their replies and my 750 word limit ould not encompass them all but here is a roundup.

Apolina Fos "We in Bassein have a rice porridge called 'kaneri'. It is had every morning as a mid-morning drink around 10am. Those working in the fields have their quota delivered. Rice is coarsely ground (even coarser than semolina). The rice is of course ground in the flour mill. Water is boiled, salted and the rice meal added to the boiling water. A little sugar is added and a little milk is stirred in after the kaneri has cooked. Kaneri like a thin soup and is served in a plate, on its own or with pickles..."

Deccanheffalump of the awesome Pune based blog "The Cooks Cottage" too time out to tell me about the medicinal pez her guru tuned her into, "When I was in Amritsar I was given a recipe by my music master (hindustani zlassical) and a local astrologer for a rice gruel recipe for dysentery/diarhhoea. In a teaspoon of ghee ( yes ghee!) fry some jeera. Add soaked rice and fry for a bit. Now add plenty of water i.e. for a tablespoon of rice about 2 cups of water. Let it cook till thick and soft. Serve. You can also add 1/2 tsp anar dana to this while cooking. I suppose this might be a punjabi recipe? The thing is it works! I gave it everyday to a guest who had viral gastro enteritis and who could keep nothing down. Well this stuck. Tastes good too."

My friend Clarajoy Alookaran of Mediascope, wrote in to share the recipe for the version, generally made for the infirm, in Kerela.

"Wash rice and dry it under the fan/sun. Dry roast the rice on low flame stirring all the while until the rice changes its colour or until you get a fragrance of the roasted rice. Allow to cool. Grind to a coarse powder in the mixer. Take 2 to 3 heaped table spoons of the rice powder, add a lot of water and keep it on low flame, stirring occasionally to a pouring consistency until the rice is soft, add salt and grated coconut mix well. Serve hot with a teaspoon of pure ghee & roasted papad."

Ammini Ramchandran, author of the stellar book "Grains greens and grated coconuts "I published an article on the topic in 2002 in the magazine Flavor & Fortune.
I have it on web site also. Here is a link to the article Hope it will be
of some help.

My food writer friend Marryam wrote " In goa, pez was the farmer's meal between breakfast and lunch, eaten with either water pickle (preserved raw mango in brine) or a piece of fried/dried fish. In Kashmir, a similar thing is called dodh vegra and is a kind of kindergarten pap eaten when someone is ill. It has none of the additions that you have asked about in the Muslim tradition: it is the opposite end of the spectrum from a gourmet dish, so by definition, is eaten when you are too ill to put down meat, spices etc.

Susan Ji young Park wrote to say that the The Book Of Rai forum has a thread on this subject.

I also caught up with a few people on Gmail chat and here is a summary of that exercise:

Mitali Kar checked with her mom and reverted that there is lei or leyee which is what in which rice and water are over boiled and created into a mishmash. This is popular in villages and the the dish is rich because the water gets absorbed by the rice. It can be had during lunch or dinner as it is highly nutritious. For additional flavour one you can add carrots, cauliflowers, beans, potatoes, turmeric and salt.

While I was working on the story, I had rice porridge every way possible. Not because I was trying recipes, but because I was assailed with cravings for the stuff every time I sat down to write! And it's usually the case, when I am engrossed in writing on a subject, I just have to eat what I am writing about which can get complicated at times. The picture above is of a concoction that turned out particularly well. It had a beaten egg added like with Chinese soups, sliced sausages and I ate it with some of the green pepper pickle I had made last year.

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