The Pongal

It was a Saturday morning, 11 am; my friend and I were waiting to be seated in a room packed with people and filled with aromas of Sambar and Madras Coffee. The heavy rains did not have any effect on turnout at this small local restaurant, ‘The Pongal’. As soon as we settled down, my friend ordered two plates of pongal. Wait, what? Isn’t it a name of a festival? Before he could explain, the food arrived. And oh my god it was nothing less than a festive moment. On a big banana leaf, there lies a big serving of ‘pongal’, two very tempting Medhu Vadas along with green chutney, red chutney and a bowl of Sambar. It looked like rice and dal with no tadka but lots of ghee, quite similar to our Moogachi Khichadi. I have never had pongal like ‘The Pongal’ anywhere else. This is an humble attempt to recreate the taste of Venn (Khara) Pongal.

Serves :4 Prep time + Cooking Time : 20 mins

Ingredients :

1 cup Rice
1 cup moong dal
4 cups water
2 tbsp fresh coconut
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp peppercorns
For Seasoning 
2 tbspn ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 green chillies
a pinch of hing powder
4-5 curry leaves
handful of chopped cashew nuts

Soak rice and moong dal in cold water and keep it aside as you prepare other ingredients. Finely chop fresh coconut and ginger. Slice green chilies in halves. Add 4 cups of water in pressure cooker, few peppercorns, ginger and coconut pieces. Drain the excess water from rice and dal and add both to this water. Add turmeric powder and close the lid. Let it whistle for 2-3 times. Once pressure goes down, open the lid and mix salt with it. Transfer it to a serving bowl, so that it retains the water content. If you keep it in pressure cooker for longer, the pongal may become dry.

It’s tadka time! Heat the ghee in a small tadka pan, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and hing powder in the same order. Add curry leaves, cashew nuts and green chilies. Wait for 1-2 minutes till cashew become golden brown. Add this sizzling ghee on the pongal. The cumin seeds, curry leaves and hing add so many flavors to this simple dish, you won’t be able to wait longer. Traditionally it’s served with coconut chutney, sambar and Medhu vada.

Pongal 101 –

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated in Tamilnadu and it coincides with the festival Makar Sankranti celebrated throughout India. Pongal in Tamil means “boiling over” or “spill over” which symbolizes material abundance in household.

Pongal is also a name of a popular rice dish unique to Tamil cuisine. There are two varieties – Venn (white) pongal which is a spicy (khara) version made using rice and moong dal quite similar yet different than moogachi khichadi (Maharashtrian comfort food); typically served at breakfast or brunch.

Sakkarai (pronounced Shakra) Pongal which is sweet, similar to Narali bhaat but it contains jaggery typically made during festivals and offered to God as prasadam.