These are the days of culinary overload. Spoilt for choice we are, yes. But once in a while, it all leaves you food nostalgic, craving for the kind of food that your grandmother always had in her kitchen. The good news is, you could yield to the craving if you happen to be traveling on the Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam highway. Pull right over at ‘Kantharis - nadan pazhankanji kada’ in Mangalapuram and treat yourself to a downright country-style dish. Pazhankanji (leftover rice gruel) mixed with crushed shallots, chilli and curds, served in a manchatti (earthen bowl) – the meal is your passport to an old world of dim lit rooms and simple dinners.
At Kantharis, the ‘kanji’ is prepared the day before in keeping with the true tradition of pazhankanji. The throwback menu is an attempt to connect the fast food generation to a signature Kerala dish, says Bhuvan Shyam who runs the hotel. The idea of a hotel that serves pazhankanji did not receive many nods in the beginning, he says. His wife Simi was all excited though. The couple went ahead and opened the daytime hotel that serves pazhankanji from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm and the response has been overwhelming, they say.
Apart from the typical accompaniments of curds, chilli and shallots, the hotel also serves fried fish. Kappa (tapioca), mango and beetroot pickles come with the combo. You can also order fried mathi (sardine), ayala (mackerel), choora (tuna) and kallummekkaya roast (mussels).
In spite of the alarming amounts of junk food around, we do come across messages that urge people to go the organic way. And it’s heartening to see the health benefits of ‘pazhakanji’ doing the rounds in social media. The general attitude to traditional foods is not encouraging and rice is one item that has fallen out of favor with the younger generation. It has lost out to packaged cereals touted as healthy and nutritious. The truth is far from this, say nutrition experts. Pazhankanji is an unmatched source of important vitamins that help slow down aging and ward off bone and muscle-related ailments.
Thinking back, we might want to confess that our grandparents lived a healthier life well into old age though they didn’t have packaged cereals for breakfast. What they did have, on most days, was a bowl of cool pazhankanji with home-made curds and chillies plucked fresh from the backyard. At Rs 90, Kanthari serves a full bowl of pazhankanji and a thought to take home - that it might not be a bad idea to reconsider your whole policy on healthy eating.