Friday, December 4, 2015

Kaanji Behenji (Guest Post)

It’s good to establish things in the beginning and I would do just that. I’m a research scholar, a defunct filmmaker and a closeted blogger/writer. I don’t shy away from writing, which is why I allowed myself to get bullied into accepting the honour of this space from Sarthak aka Jalebi (ignoring the fact that his life is Jalebi, not him) himself. Mr Jalebi had a request with reference to my post. At 2:41 am, which is way past the acceptable bedtime for Jalebi Boi (please use your sing-song manner to set this name to rhyme with this devastatingly beautiful song titled Jalebi Bai), he sent an email asking (read stating), could I write a guest post on Kaanji?

Now, first things first. If you’re from the down South, or any other part of the world/country besides North India, and do not have any affiliation with any Punjabi friend who has their roots in Pakistan/Punjab and the likes, I don’t blame you. Even if you do, and yet have not heard or have no clue about who or what Kaanji is, I can’t hold this against you. A simple Google search would yield that Kanji (which is, how it should be written) is one out of three Japanese scripts. I am aware of this because, at some point in my life, I attempted to learn Japanese, which I dropped out from when I knew I had CBSE Math board to pass. You can hear all about it if you ever get down to locating, and consequently stalking my blog. Besides, say what you may, I have to shake the ground of this blog and ask him, why isn’t your life murukku or butter chakli? Why is it Jalebi and not Imarti? An Imarti is just as sweet and juicy as a Jalebi, only less crispy. I need answers.

I digress, but coming back, Kaanji is not just a Japanese script or the misheard lyrics in “Kaanchi Re Kaanchi Re, Preet Meri Kaanji”, but it’s a fascinating Indian drink. I use the word fascinating because Jalebi Man’s done a bit of introspective searching on his Facebook friend list and found his friends, acquaintances etc being aware of this, vaguely if not completely. The top answer yielded in his search included, ‘Punjabi Sangria,’.  Given how I’m a research scholar (which is a fancy term for stalking the living daylight out of internet, if I get down to doing it), I used my superpowers to locate the connotations surrounding Kaanji (which reads) as, ‘a yummy spring Holi drink’, ‘desi probiotic drink’, ‘pungent drink with pickle’. All these definitions place Kaanji in the same league as exotic and delightfully interesting food names and types like Foie Gras, Caviar, Cucumber and Wasabi Sushi amongst others. So, how does something so unique finds itself neglected in the food habits of the new and shiny, Web 2.0 consumer? Why is it that the North Indian adults have chosen to forget this drink and moved to accepting chai as our national drink?

Let’s start with the basics. Kaanji is a drink to bid rib-crackling winters goodbye. It’s supposedly garam in nature, which means if you were to consume it in the Summer months, you’ll be dealing with a bad case of loose motions. Not only that, there’s a very specific weather which supports the fermentation of the laal gaajar, or black carrots used in the process to make this drink. Kaanji, then, is a digestive drink which is to be consumed in small quantity, not over one glass a day, only after cooling it in the refrigerator. It’s also to be consumed in the span of 6-8 days of it being ‘ready’. Keep it longer and you might find getting sick after consuming it, and keep it under 6 days and consume, you’ll possibly pass out with the pungent flavour which will hit you stronger than Skrillex dropping the bass. Kaanji is a dangerous drink, far trickier than Whiskey on the rocks or Chaar Botal Vodka. Because let’s face it,

a)    A double peg of Single Malt minus any soda/water will be ‘bitter’, but won’t be pungent to your nose. Kaanji would hit you like Britney singing One More Time! only ten times stronger.
b)   Vodka will lead you into a terrible hangover. Okay, not one shot, but chaar botal would definitely give you Blue Eyes and you’d hypnotize yourself into passing out. Kaanji won’t give you a hangover or a reason to get in touch with your ex. However, one glass of over fermented drink can give you one-week long break from office/college/school/life. I may or may not have had first-hand experience. I cannot confirm or deny this.

So, why is it that inspite of such grave flaws, both him and I are still talking about the damn drink?

First things first, Kaanji is an acquired taste. Hipster kya jaane Kaanji ka swaad, is a stunning replacement here, to the age old, ‘bandar’ trying ‘adrak’ and showing his displeasure at it. Kaanji is what every Punjabi kid, who’s grown up in the company of grandparents, has tried, and attempted to understand with a serious look on their face what it is. As a child, I remember relatives coming over and making a big fuss about my Dadi’s version. I have vivid memories of drinking a small glass of Kaanji every winter in these tiny Air India glasses that a family friend had gotten us, as a souvenir from having spent a large chunk of his career in association with the Airlines. Of course years later, the family friend, those AI glasses and my Dadi- they’re all gone. All I have in my mind are waves of memories, that I wade through each year during Winter chill.

Last year, I’d pulled an end of the semester submission all-nighter for a final paper. A dear Punjabi friend was spotted online at an ungodly hour at 4:3o am that same morning. She and I got talking and went from messages to audio call, because boredom begets boredom. Very hesitantly, I let my words slip into a general catching up conversation,

“Have you ever heard of this drink called Kaanji? My Dadi used to make it for the family every Winter when I was a kid. I’m having the most absurd craving at this hour. Out of nowhere, in the middle of cock freezing winter while I write this paper, I feel like I need a glass of Kaanji.”

My friend shrieked in total shock on the phone.


(Friend’s got a farm in Nainital, she can drive a tractor like a boss, can’t park or drive a car in Delhi tho.)

We continued until my mother woke up and heard me excitedly talk in continuation about Kaanji. Now, picture your parent having been rudely woken up at 5 am, because you’re laughing on top of your lungs after having re-discovered Kaanji, which is really a comfort drink only for old Punjabi ladies. She (mother) was only ever too kind to promise that she’d make Kaanji for both of us. Which, she ultimately ended up doing that week as laal gaajar were in the market and she didn’t have to substitute it with a different variety of carrots. I had to share half a bottle of Kaanji with the same friend once it was done. My father was pleasantly surprised to see Kaanji in the house and everyone at home enjoyed three different rounds over 5 days to finish the supply. That particular year, I even took a sizeable quantity of Kaanji as a part of birthday presents I did for my Kaanji loving friend (I do extensive birthday gifts, complete with elaborate homemade cakes and the works, which was amusing because never have I ever taken Kaanji for anyone on their birthday).

I’m aware that you aren’t quite concerned with what happened to me in 2014 (and you shouldn’t be, I didn’t win an award for Blogging. Jalebi boi did). Which is why, I’d wrap this post with a recipe for you to experiment. Let Kaanji into your life this year, and next and maybe forever. It’s an oral tradition which I believe is dying a merciless death in the hands of a generation believing Rooh Afza is bae. I don’t mind my Rooh Afza shake but I do need my Kaanji and Gaajar ka achaar with Chole Bhature during the 90 days of Winter. Make sure you keep bananas handy and remember to not overdose on this drink when you do get down to making it If something goes wrong in the process, make sure you foot all medical bills to Jalebi Boi. I’ve heard he makes money out of numbers.



  • 250 gms Laal Gaajar/ Black Carrot (which is not black in colour, contrary to what our boi believes. They’re deep red and you’ll be able to identify as they’re usually in the market by January end. Else, go to the mandi and speak to vendors about Kaanji wali gaajar. They’ll help you out).
  • 2-3 Tablespoon Brown Mustard Seeds/ Rai (Not Aishwarya. Sorry).
  • Punch of Red Chili Powder (I go for a tablespoon)
  • Two Tablespoons Tata/Catch Salt (Do hit me up if you use any other variant, yet to meet an Indian family who uses a different brand).
  • One Tablespoon Rock Salt/ Kala Namak
  • Lots of RO processed drinking water
  • Two Plates Chole Bhature

Bonus Secret Ingredient:
(If you’re from UP/or have affiliation to food from UP you must add this.)

  • Asafoetida/ Hing - Just a tiny pinch. Don’t be a rebel here. You’ll regret it.

  1. Wash your hands with soap. Wipe them dry and head to the kitchen. Wash the carrots rigorously. Think of life, the universe and how you’re just a speck of dust in the larger frame of things while you do that. Waste some more time doing this. Not water. Water is precious. Okay?
  2. Chop the carrots in juliennes, preferably not too thin but not too thick. If you’ve a Punjabi Dadi/friend’s Dadi who can help you out, ask them about the gajaar ka achaar shape. That’s what we want.
  3. Once you’re done figuring out how terrible you’re at chopping vegetables, move to the next step. Put together all the ingredients (except Chole Bhature, don’t order them just yet.) and dunk it together in 2.5/3 litres of drinking water in a martbaan. Don’t forget to give it a good stir and when you think you’ve done a good job, don’t just keep standing there. Take a spoon and taste it. It’ll probably not taste good but sample the salt and chilli scene. Adjust accordingly.
  4.  Shut the lid tightly and leave this jar in a dry, sun-lit space. Forget about this for the next 4.5-5.5 days. Put out a Google notification for the 6 day that you’ve to move this jar.
  5. On the 6 day of this strangeness, remove the jar from the sun-light and bring it back to the kitchen. This is judgement time. Open the lid, give it a couple of stirs and taste a little. Pungent? Sour? Hits your nose like nothing you’ve ever had before? If you answer yes to all three, your Kaanji is ready.
  6. Transfer the Kaanji to empty pet water bottles. Make sure you transfer carrots too, but in the process of transferring, separate a bowl full of these fermented carrots and keep aside. Put the liquid in the refrigerator after storing this in the bottle.
  7.  Move on to your favourite food delivery app. Alternatively, you could even do a take-away but you’d rather not. It’s winter and you’re lazy.  Locate your favourite halwai and order two plates of Chole Bhature. Second for the Dadi who helped you out with this.
  8. Once Bhature are on your plate, replace the salad with fermented carrots and Chole. Share this with the grandmother. She’ll be super touched and massively impressed. Even if your Kaanji ki Gaajar tastes like crap, she’ll love it. 
  9. After you’re done eating this, take out your Kaanji from the refrigerator. Pour two small glasses and fill it to the top. Share it with your grandmom, someone else’s grandmom and the rest of your family. Make sure one member of the house hasn’t had it and that person knows how to ride a bike/drive a car. 
  10. When you’re dying after OD-ing on Kaanji and adding Chole Bhature to it, contact that one other family member and ask them to bring you Vizylac and bananas. Send the bill to Jalebi Boi. 

This post has been written by mi louuu, Anisha Saigal aka Saigalster aka Snobster aka Dadi Amma with a pout. You must follow her on all the links given here, even though she hasn't asked me to do this. I'm just asking you to do this because gratitude. Also, this does not mean that you follow her in real life. Line mein lago. Abhi bohot bande khade hain.

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  1. A lil long this post :pp

    But... @@@@@ for the recipe.. Anddd cuz it reminded me of how my dadi used to make this for me. Senti kar ditta..hehe.

    Cute references. Lovee punjab! Love chola bathura and kaanji :D

    1. Love Kaanji with this Delhi pollution in the air. Apni mitti te pollution di mitthi khushboo *coughs* :')

  2. I want Kanji now. Dayumn. Also, cause no one's commenting. :(

    1. But you're getting all 5 stars! I will give you no less than ten. You've really up'ed the humor quotient here :D

  3. Woaah! This was such a read! More importantly it involved food, so the hilarious literature was just the best cherry to the cake! @@@@@ and a gallon of kaanji! :)

  4. OMG, KAAAAANJIIIIIII. I cannot believe I am reading this right now! I am going home in the last week of January and a couple days ago I called up my mom to remind her that I WANT ME SOME KAANJI when I get there. And Chhole Bhature ohohoho I'm having foodgasms here. Awesome, man, awesome. Anisha Saigal, you're awesome. Kaanji is bae. Have all the jalebis in the world. @@@@@@@

    1. Save some Kaanji for me too. A lot of people promised a few weeks ago, and no one has sent it so far.

    2. You got it! (Unless my mom ditches me!)

    3. Bumbling Baboon: thank you for warm words and fuzzy loving :). Am responsible for taking many a Kanji virginity this season and incidentally, finished my first jar of the season today.

  5. Kanji!! That brings some memories...

  6. Thanks for an interesting blog. What else may I get that sort of info written in such a perfect approach? I have an undertaking that I am just now operating on, and I have been on the lookout for such info. it's time to avail this gutter leaf guard in Iowa City visit here for more details.


If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D