Why Malabar trusts the age-old kozhimarunnu

Kozhimarunnu
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The monsoon is in full swing, the weather damp and bleak. It’s also the time of the year when the entire place is ridden with ills. In the good old days, the lean months used to be the best to trim up one’s diet, beat the cold with herbal brews and get a massage or two with body oils, all to pep up the spirit and the body in preparation for the warm months of toil after the rains.

When the more affluent patronized uzhichil and pizhichil, the less privileged had to be satisfied with herbal remedies which they readied in their humble abodes.

Health-obsessed Malayalis now know how to care for their bodies when the rains set in. They get soaked on oushadha kanji, marunnu kanji, Karkidaka kanji and pathila curries. When this seems to be the general pattern, Malabar has its special monsoon menu. The present pattern is a continuation of its age-old traditions. It had its set of seasonal diets and the Malabar Karkidaka special cuisine. They were unique and distinct.

The interiors of Kozhikode had their special traits. Its women never knew what rest was, nor did they ever dream of pausing for breath. It was work, work and more work from dawn to midnight. However, come monsoon, the womenfolk would leave their husbands’ homes for their own … to treat themselves to the very medicinal and rejuvenating “kozhimarunnu”. Mothers would get the stuff ready much before their dear daughters came. This was also the time when there was an exchange of daughters and in-laws. It was daughters to their homes and daughters-in-law to theirs.

Kozhimarunnu is a mix of herbal medicines, finely chopped leaves and country elixirs. And they were all readied at home. The scene has changed today with kozhimarunnu mixes being sold in shops for herbal remedies. The medicine can be prepared with this instant mix.

Old timers swear by the wondrous medicinal effect of kozhimarunnu on the body. It’s very much like a body-building protein food. It keeps the body in fine fettle and readies one for another 12 months of gruelling work. But it has to be made to perfect mixes and measures. No broiler chicken for the marunnu. It has to be home bred chicken boiled and cooked with the medicines in the right temperature. Observing the right diet while savouring kozhimarunnu is vital to well-being, it is said. The “jeerakakozhi soup” just like kozhimarunnu was another herbal gruel folks in Kozhikode’s remote villages drank during the monsoon rains. But while the soup was a women’s exclusive, the marunnu could be had by all.

Medicinal effects

The herbal mixes for kozhimarunnu can be had from shops. On the day prior to making the medicine, a concoction of kurunthotti (bala/common wireweed) and karinkurinji (strobilanthes ciliatus) is to be readied. Both the herbs are to be mixed in water and then boiled till the water condenses to half of its original measure. This is strained and set aside. A home-bred hen that’s mature enough to lay eggs is cleaned and cut into tiny pieces which are then boiled in the concoction, set aside along with the kozhimarunnu mixes. When this is half done, a kilo of shallots, induppu (rock salt), 200 ml of sesame oil and ghee are mixed in. This is again boiled till it’s done, the water is completely absorbed and the oil surfaces. The mix is set aside to cool. The kozhimarunnu is ready.

Chicken broth

This medicine has to be had for three days. Strict adherence to a few rules is a must. No water intake and complete rest for the body.

Jeerakakozhi soup

Clean and cut a home-bred hen into small pieces. Scrape a coconut and get the first milk extract and set it aside. Cook the chicken in the second milk extract. Separate the meat from the bones. Shake the bones well to get the marrow out. Mix this with the meat. Add rock salt, 100 gm of ground jeerakam (cumin seeds), 50 gm of powdered pepper and a handful of sliced shallots. Add in the first milk extract and cook the entire mix till the water content dries up. Pour in shallots seasoned in ghee.

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