Tamil people of South India celebrate Pongal in January. During this harvest festival we combine two of south India’s staples, rice and lentils, into a luscious, comforting and creamy risotto like dish. The day of Pongal is one of worship and thanksgiving where we make offerings to the Sun god and thank him for the year’s harvest. The day after pongal is maattu pongal, literally ‘cow pongal’, honoring cows and other working animals.
A Pongal Tradition
When I was a child, pongal was always a much anticipated festival day. We woke early, dressed up and headed downstairs to a smokey open wood fire. Two decorated brass pots of pongal would already be bubbling away – one sweet (with coconut, cardamom and jaggery), and one savory (recipe below). My grandmother the matriarch, was in charge of making the pongal. My father would always scold her for using too much ghee in pongal, and the second he turned away, shed add another dollop!
Pongal in India – sweet and savory pongals in brass pots on an open fire in my grandmother’s house
The trick to a creamy pongal is to cook it in whole milk, rather than water. If you’d rather keep the dish light, substitute the milk with water. Remember that the amount of water you’ll need in this recipe will vary depending on the rice you are using.
More pongal recipes..
Chef in you’s pressure cooker pongal recipe
Ven pongal recipe by Archanas kitchen
Another ven pongal recipe on a life time of cooking blog
Kara pongal or khara pongal recipe using chillies and coconut on Aayi’s recipes
Creamy Ven Pongal Recipe
serves about 4
1 cup short grain rice (substitute with basmati)
½ cup split moong dal (mung beans)
½ teaspoon oil
4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or butter
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon peppercorns
6oz fresh ginger, peeled
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
4 curry leaves
3 cups whole milk
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cashewnuts, lightly roasted in a few drops of oil or ghee
Rinse and drain the rice and dal and set aside.
You will need to use a large, deep pot or saucepan for this recipe. If you use a small pot, the milk will boil over and make a mess.
Heat oil and ghee in the pot . Add mustard seeds to oil & ghee. When they splutter, add cumin and peppercorns, and stir 30 seconds. Cut the peeled ginger into 2 or 3 chunks. Add ginger chunks, asafetida, and curry leaves to the oil and stir about 30 seconds or till the ginger and curry leaves are fragrant.
Add the rinsed rice and dal, and stir well. Pour in the milk, water and salt and bring to a boil. If the milk begins to froth and boil over, stir it till it settles down.
Once the milk boils, reduce heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the milk doesn’t boil over and make a mess.
Pongal is done when the rice is very soft and creamy. Depending on the rice you are using, cooking times may vary. You may also need to use more water, depending the rice you are using.
If most the liquid gets absorbed, but the rice still isn’t cooked, just add more water and continue cooking till rice is soft.
Serve hot, topped with roasted cashews and sambar on the side.