Kanji is an Odia dish n a speciality of Southern Odisha. Its made from torani (fermented rice water) having a unique sour taste. Normally Kanji is cooked during summer to beat the tropical heat. It comes in various flavours n names as per its ingredients… Patra/Saga Kanji (as per leavy vegetables used like sajna, khatta palang-gorkura, gandhana, koshala etc), Pariba Kanji (as per the locally available vegetables like pumpkin, lady’s finger, yam, radish, cluster beans, drumstick etc), Dahi Kanji (as per curd added to kanji).
Main ingredients are torani, peja (leftover starch water after boiling called gruel) for thickness n khudah (broken rice). Normal rice can be used if khudah is unavailable. If torani is not there, even ambula (dry salted green mango) or dahi can be used to get the sour taste, but torani is the best for getting the perfect aroma of kanji.
First heat the torani with peja, salt, add haldi to it, then add khudah n make it half boiled.Then add either vegetables or leaves to prepare the kanji. Allow the vegetables to be fully cooked n wait till the water is little thicker. Make chhoonk separately with oil, panch phutan, dry chilli, ginger, curry leaves etc. Add the choonk to kanji n the dish is ready. Ambula or curd water can be used at start if torani is not available. If khatta palanga leaves are used, there is no need to add ambula since these leaves are naturally sour in taste. Its known by various names in various areas of Odisha – khatta palanga, khatta bhendi, khatta kaunria, ambili kaunria etc. Kanji replaces dal while serving with rice, bhajji, any kasha curry, dried fish, salad (luna pani), pithou bhaja etc as per taste. Since torani is treated as the main ingredient, this cuisine is popularly known as Torani Kanji
Its also prepared in winter due to wide availability of varieties of vegetables. Kanji is also featured under chhappan bhog and served to Lord Jagannath during Bada Singhara dhupa in three olis (small containers). Its also quite known in households in Puri, Bolangir & other places of Odisha, but is yet to be available commercially in restaurants. Its said that Akshay Mohanty has made Kanji, a popular dish across Odisha through his rendition of a folklore song .. “Kartika Masha re Asila Kanji” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J90Y2G_oQ2A . Southern India has its own variant of Kanji (although with same name) whereas the North Indian Kanji of Kanji vada has similar tangy taste. Don’t mind if you get a heavy meal with Kanji !!