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Kaanji – the drink divine

Kaanji – the drink divine


It’s the season for kaanji, India’s  best answer to Pinot Noir!

There’s a subtle crunch of the carrots, and the heady mustardy flavor that almost waltzes on your taste buds with every sip of this drink divine. In short, carrots and spice, and everything nice equals Kaanji.


This heady beverage is made mostly around Holi, the festival of colors in India, and goes well with pakoras and gujiyas. Not only is kaanji flavorful, it also helps in digestion.

I have grown up seeing street vendors rolling their carts on the crowded streets of the Doon valley, displaying kaanjis in jars covered with a red cotton cloth, sprigs of coriander, lemons and some masala concoctions sitting next to the jars. Many would provide that extra oomph to the kaanji by virtue of their vadas that would soak in the kaanjis.

We as kids, often looked at the carts with such longing in our eyes. Were we to taste the manna? No, we were denied outright, but then that stern ‘No’ was from a six-footer Kumaoni Brahmin grandfather, who had just descended to the plains of lower Himalayas from Gangtok, Sikkim. He too, I am sure wasn’t introduced to the gastronomic joys of Kaanji.

But we were not easily dissuaded. We would find ways to make it a point to visit our Punjabi neighbor’s to wish them a most joyous Holi, and would also carry a thali containing gujiyas and some home-made namkeens, duly covered with a vintage crochet laced hand-made table cover, with tiny red beads dangling from the edges.

This particular white table cover was handmade by my grandmother, a short, petite woman with the biggest red bindi. Her table cover would make guest appearance only on special occasions like Holi and Diwali, and was strictly reserved for covering thalis. No, not even my aunt was ever allowed to use it to as a dust protector for her Murphy radio.

After my marriage, I came to Delhi and found out that my mother- in law was quite an expert on kaanji and pickles!

For a couple of years, I have been a witness to my mother in law, doling out gallons of home made kaanji from her huge glazed earthenware jars. Now of course, with time, my mother in law has receded from the kaanji and pickle scene.

Since I am in India at this time of the year, when the vegetable shops are flooded with these black carrots. I just thought of returning the favors to my mother in law by making some kaanji for her. Did she approve of the finished product? Yes, she did!

The recipe is very easy but remember this calls for the black variety of carrots. In case, you do not have access to black carrots, you can always use the red ones, the color would seep in the drink from the beet.



4 Black carrots

2 Beetroots

8 cups water

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. mustard powder

1 tsp. red chilly powder


Wash, peel and julienne the carrots and beetroots.

Boil and cool the water.

Mix the salt, mustard and chilies with vegetables.

Transfer into a big jar. Add water. Stir well.

The drink would be ready in 4 to 5 days. Keep it in the refrigerator now.

Serve chilled, garnished with a mint sprig and a slice of lemon.

(Source: a hand me down vintage recipe)


For those looking for a perfect recipe click here

You can watch a video here:


About spicerack

Full time granny, arts enthusiast, compulsive baker and a freelance writer! Practically a nomad, living out of my suitcase literally! Based in Kuwait, New Delhi, and San Diego!

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