Pots of goodness

Thiruvai A. Anees Photo: Liza George

Thiruvai A. Anees Photo: Liza George   | Photo Credit: Liza George

Thiruvai A. Anees’ masala kanji is drawing a crowd at Karupattikada Jumah Masjid in Chala during the month of Ramadan

There is an appetising aroma as I enter the courtyard of the Karupattikada Jumah Masjid in Chala. My nose leads me to a kitchen where Thiruvai A. Anees, the head chef, is busy taking turns stirring the ingredients in two large vessels. He is assisted by Malik Mohammed and Peer Mohammed. Anees laughs, saying: “If you think this smells good, wait until I start adding the rest of the ingredients. Better yet, wait till you taste it.”

So far, it’s only the rice that has gone into the dish he is preparing – masala kanji. He has yet to add vegetables, spices and his secret “masala kootu”. Says Anees: “It’s all about timing. You need to add each ingredient at the right time. A minute too soon or late can make a difference to the flavour of the dish. My nose and my years of experience tell me at which stage I should add each ingredient.”

The kanji he is preparing is for the devotees who come to the mosque to pray and break their fast during the month of Ramadan.

“After a day of fasting, kanji is both refreshing and nutritious. Although kanji is usually served at various mosques in the city during Iftar, the one served here is different as it is prepared in the Thiruvithamcode style. Chefs from Thiruvithamcode are brought down especially for this whole month and also on Milad-e-Sherif. We use ‘kanji’ rice that is a speciality at Thiruvithamcode to prepare this dish. The masala preparation is also different,” says Nuhumanudeen G., assistant manager of Karupattikada Jumah Masjid.

The chefs who come down to prepare the kanji vary year to year. But Anees, whose kanji was a hit last year, has been invited this year too. Anees says it was his father, Abdul Salam, who taught him to cook. “My father used to prepare kanji for the devotees at our neighbourhood mosque during the month of Ramadan. I used to watch and assist him.”

Anees branched out on his own when he was 18. An eighth standard dropout, Anees who is running a catering business in Thiruvithamcode, says he was one of the first to introduce masala kanji to the masses. “Till then, Chukku kanji was what was usually served at the mosques in and around Thiruvithamcode. My father, however, used to prepare a version of the masala kanji at our mosque. I improvised on the recipe by adding a secret masala kootu; it’s the reason why my kanji tastes and smells so good. When I was called to cater to the masses at another mosque in Thiruvithamcode during Ramadan, I suggested serving Masala kanji on alternate days. It became a hit and there was no looking back,” says the 43-year-old.

Since it’s a Sunday, Anees is preparing only two large vessels of kanji at the Karupattikada Jumah Masjid. On other days, there are three. “We prepare kanji for around 800 people daily. On an average this mosque serves a congregation of 450 persons in the evening. Not just Muslims, but people belonging to other religions also look forward to tasting the kanji during Ramadan,” says Anees.

The vegetarian version of the kanji is more commonly served here. “We rarely serve meat based masala kanji as it is too heavy for the stomach, especially after a period of fast,” says Anees who starts prepping and preparing the kanji by 10 a.m. The dish, which is ready by 1.30 p.m. is then left on a dum. While the devotees are served in vessels that are arranged neatly on a table once the Iftar starts, outsiders stand in line outside with their own containers. “It’s usually a long line. I guess they are led by their noses,” laughs Anees as he continues stirring his pots of goodness.

About Karupattikada Jumah Masjid

“Karupattikada Jumah Masjid that is said to be one of the oldest in the city was built in 1928 by Gulam Mohideen (Kottapak sahib) a trader from Thiruvithamcode, Kanyakumari. He started trade at Chala and built a mosque for the devotees. The mosque was run by members of the family till about the last 30 years or so. Now it’s under the Thiruvithamcode Muslim Jamath and we have a 12 member committee. This has to be one of the few mosques to remain untouched. We have maintained the original structure,” says Nuhumanudeen G.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:12:06 AM |

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