Kanji craze: How Malayalis in Karama bond over a bowl

Traditional rice porridge/payaru kanji. Photo: Shutterstock/Santhosh Varghese

Karama in Dubai could rightly be called the meeting point of Malayalis who live in various Emirates in the UAE. No matter where they stay, Malayalis throng Karama to meet each other and also to enjoy delicious Kerala food. Karama is a treasure trove of all the things that excite nostalgia in expatriate Keralites.

Arab cuisine may be taking over the food scene in Kerala; but traditional or local flavours are the favourites in Dubai. From the good old kanji kada (small eateries where rice porridge is served) to the iconic tea stalls and the eateries that sell puzhukku (a mix of tubers cooked in spiced coconut gravy), Karama is where you get them all. Malayalis could be seen blowing on hot kanji and enjoying it with an array of side dishes. Moreover, they are keen to show people from other countries too, the right way to enjoy kanji.

Photo: Shutterstock/Santhosh Varghese

The quaint eateries that serve kanji are also the places where Malayalis bond and strike new friendships. Interestingly, North Indians, Emiratis, Africans and Filipinos too regularly visit these eateries to enjoy a bowl of hot kanji. However, kanji is not a ‘humble’ dish here. Owing to its incredible demand and nostalgic value, kanji has had an elevated status in recent times. You could enjoy rice with delicious fish curry for just AED 11 here. But, a bowl of hot kanji in the night costs AED 18 which is equal to Rs 400.

Kanji is available in restaurants like Aaraamam, Arippa and Manchatti. Besides, there are kanji kadas too that are specially dedicated to serving hot kanji and curries. Interestingly, you could enjoy varieties of kanji at these eateries. Kuthari kanji (made with Kerala matta rice), podiyari kanji (broken rice), fenugreek kanji, cumin kanji, coconut kanji, combo kanji with omelette and fried fish and tali kanji with puzhukku and dried fish are some of popular items. It is likely that the regular customers at these hotels may soon begin a WhatsApp group as they have bonded over kanji and have become quite close too.

Everyone appreciates a hearty conversation as they scoop a spoonful of hot kanji, blow on it gently and then enjoy it.  

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