Pazhanganji / pazhaya soru / cooked rice soaked overnight in water is one of the most unlikely food item to be discussed at a buffet lunch. Yet, I found myself discussing this bland, old, but nutritionally rich food while surrounded by a variety of high-calorie food that are not necessarily healthy for the body. Pazhanganji – an item that is considered poor man’s food, unfit to be offered to guests, and reserved to be given off to the house maid. At a time when refrigerators were uncommon, pazhanganji was an inevitable item. Every night, some water would be poured over leftover rice and would be kept aside. This would get slightly fermented overnight and nutritionally rich with gut-friendly bacteria. Nowadays because every house is equipped with a refrigerator, this practice is nonexistent.
It takes foreigners (especially Americans) to research our old practices and publish papers on their benefits for us to realize the wisdom of our ancestors. Now that the American Nutrition Association says that the previous day’s soaked rice is the best for breakfast as it gets enriched with iron, potassium and calcium by several hundred percentage points, we get convinced and can get back our eating habits. What surprised me was that such rice (unpolished) soaked overnight is a source for the rare B6 and B12 vitamins. Amazing! These are not easily available, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Apart from the internal benefits, this diet also helps maintain a youthful and radiant look! Internal as well as external benefits. What more does one want?
There is no recipe for pazhanganji. Just add cooked rice to a vessel, ideally an earthenware pot. Add water to this just enough to soak the rice. Keep it closed overnight in the corner of your kitchen.
In the morning, you can add sliced shallots/onion, green chilies, or tiny pieces of ginger to this along with salt, mix well and have it. If you are using an earthenware for your pazhankanji, it would be cool to touch and taste. After you consume it, your stomach would feel cool from inside. (Unlike ice cream that is cool to touch but induces heat inside your body) You may have pazhanganji along with a pickle, thick chutney/chammanthi/thogayal, or with papad or vathal/kondattams. The right way to have pazhanganji is to use your right hand to mix the rice and water well, tilt the pot to drink the water first and then have the rice with chammanthi. Enjoy the immense health benefits of going back to the roots.