What is Pongal?
Pongal is a popular South Indian rice dish that is also enjoyed in Sri Lankan cuisine. It is generally cooked outside in villages near Tamil Nadu. The dish contains turmeric and clarified butter or ghee, giving the dish a pleasing aroma and flavour. An interesting fact about Pongal is that it goes by many different names depending on the state that it is served. For example, it is known as Pondali in Telegu and Kannada, and sometimes it is known as 'Huggi'.
The word Huggi is derived from the old Kannada word Puggi which means 'bubbled up or ballooned'. Some people from India say that eating Pongal at night is similar to drinking alcohol because of the high sugar and fat content, which can overload the digestive system, thus slowing your physical health the next day.
Every year there is a South Indian festival named after Pongal. To mark the celebration, the Pongal is prepared. Firstly it is offered to the gods and goddesses, and then it is provided to cows and finally the family.
The Pongal festival celebration includes decorating cows and their horns and ritual bathing. There are different types of Pongal, such as Chakra Pongal, a dish made with rice, milk, sugar, raisins, and cashews. This dish is typical in the temple prasadham. Venn Pongal is a pepper rice dish, and Puli Pongal is a dish that dates back thousands of years when a genius cook accidentally boiled and Moon dal together.
This was such a hit that much later, around 200 BC, The 'Indravizhya' festival celebrated at Poombuhar changed its name to be called Pongal. In his personal review of Pongal, Ravi says that it is like mashed rice with pepper, cashews, coconut chunks, and curry leaves.
Pongal is an easy dish to make. It is typically served with coconut chutney but also goes well with sambar and pickle. Pongal is a light meal that can be served any time of day for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Traditionally, Pongal is made with newly harvested short-grain rice & Moong dal as it gives the best gooey texture. Aged rice and dal are not so good at achieving that texture. Cows ghee is used to temper the dish, and it is more favoured for religious offerings, and the aroma is greater.
Pongal can be made from grains like millet, rolled oats, steel-cut oats, quinoa, Rava, and even brown rice. You should use the ingredients that are available to you when possible. It turns out good with any grain, but while offering prasad during pooja, the dish is restricted to just rice and millets. The proportion of rice and dal varies. Whilst it is a personal choice, the dish is best made with an equal ratio of rice and dal, resulting in a rich, creamy taste.
This ven Pongal recipe is best cooked on the stovetop. Made with rice and moong dal, it can be sweet or savoury. It's aromatic, delicious, and packed with protein. The traditional Indian dish can be cooked in under 30 minutes. We use a 1:1 rice and moong dal ratio but feel free to adjust the rice to dal ratio to your taste. Ven Pongal is also known as Khara Pongal. This recipe serves two but if you intend to cook this for more people, then feel free to double or triple the recipe.
Using hing and turmeric is optional, so if you do not have that on hand, don't worry! You can make Pongal with a saucepan and frying pan, but some people prefer to use a pressure cooker for cooking the rice. For this example, we will be using a saucepan. When it comes to choosing rice, you can use any rice that you like. For health, opt for brown rice, but for flavour, add basmati. If using brown rice, you should soak it before preparing this dish for 30 minutes to help it soften more to make the dish smooth.
- Rice (1/2 cup)
- Moong dal (1/2 cup)
- Water (3 cups)
- Salt (1/4 tsp)
- Ghee (2 tbsps)
- Cashew nuts (handful)
- Cumin / Jeera seeds (1/2 tsp)
- Black pepper (1/2 tsp)
- Freshly grated ginger (1 tsp)
- Curry leaves (7)
- Hing (pinch)
- Turmeric (pinch)
- Green chilli (optional)
Heat a large saucepan and dry roast the moong dal on a low flame until it becomes aromatic. Stir often to prevent it from burning, and when you begin to smell the dal turn it off. Make sure that it does not brown (this usually takes around 5 minutes.
Next, you will want to add the rice to the same saucepan with the dal, wash them both a few times, drain the water, add the 3 cups of water, and add the salt.
If you are cooking your Pongal in a pressure cooker, you will want to place a lid on and cook for 2-3 whistles on a low to medium flame. If you are cooking it in a saucepan, you will need to cook until soft, adding more water if it is required.
When it is cooked, the rice and dal should be soft and mushy. If the Pongal is too thick, you can add a little more water and cook for another few minutes. Spoon out a tiny bit of the rice and lentil and adjust the seasoning if needed and then turn the heat off.
In a frying pan, heat ghee or, if you'd like, switch that out for your preferred cooking oil. Split open about one handful of cashew nuts and fry them until golden brown. Then remove them and set them aside. They will be used for garnishing the dish at the end.
In the same pan, add the cumin seeds, crushed black pepper, curry leaves, ginger paste, and one green chill if you like some heat. When the curry leaves go crispy and you have a great aroma, you can add the hing. Mix in the rice and dal, and feel free to remove some fried curry leaves for the garnish. Simmer for one minute and cover until served. Then serve with the cashews and fried curry leaves on top.
Tip: Serve this ven Pongal with coconut chutney, mango pickle, or tiffin sambar