Pongal is a South Indian staple dish made with rice and lentils, traditionally used for Navadyanam purpose ( serving Prasad to God ). For this reason, the preparation is kept really simple and devoid of any “tamasic” food like onion, garlic etc. you can prepare it both sweet and savoury ways, keeping the basic recipe same but using minimum spices instead of Jaggery. Savoury Pongal will be very similar to Khichdi like in North India.
Combining rice and lentil makes a very balanced and nutritious meal. Rice has essential carbohydrates and protein which when mix with the proteins of Lentils, enhances the digestive factor and helps in absorbing the right nutrition for your body. The factor that its topped with Ghee is a bonus that adds in the essential fats, making this dish a very wholesome and healthy meal. And a very pure one too, and that’s the reason it’s used for the “Pooja” or prayer purposes
I tasted Pongal first time in a small Iyanger restaurant during my trip from Bangalore to Coorg. We stopped there for lunch and ordered Thalis (platters), and I must admit I was very excited having to taste this cuisine first time in my life. Needless to say, it didn’t leave me disappointed. The food was delicious, and the simplicity in making was very prominent. The subtle use of coconut and lots and lots of Ghee made the whole experience very “calming” I would say.
Anyway, so I tried this version first time at home and was very pleased to have it. Although the taste was nowhere near the one I ate in that restaurant, may be due to the quality of rice and lentil being very different in that region. But it was still a calming and comforting breakfast.
For those who don’t eat jaggery that much, you may add half jaggery and half sugar to first get a hang of the taste. Since the jaggery I used was very strong and dark, I added a little sugar to it and it was very much OK. May be next time I will use the variety which is not that strong and see how does it taste like without sugar. Traditionally sugar is not added at all, you may play around with the combination.
Prep Time: 4-5 minutes ( includes pressure cooking time )
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 3-4 people
Cuisine:- South indian
Spice Level: Sweet
Recipe Level: Medium
Shelf Life: Up to 12 hours at room temperature, up to 3-4 days in the Fridge
Serving Suggestion: For breakfast, or dessert after meals. Specially prepared during fasting days
Nutritional Facts:- Rich in Proteins, Fiber and minerals.
Recipe Source: Raks Kitchen
What you need?
- ½ cup rice
- ¼ cup Moong Dal ( yellow lentil )
- ¼ cup Jaggery , grounded/powdered ( gur )
- 4 tbsp Sugar
- 3 cups Water
- A pinch of Salt
- ¼ cup cashews ( kaju )
- 1 tbsp raisins ( kishmish )
- 2-3 cloves of cardamom ( elaichi )
- 1 clove ( laung )
- A pinch of nutmeg powder ( jaiphal )
- 2 tbsp Ghee or Oil if making VEGAN version
How to make?
- Rinse and soak both rice and lentils separately for half an hour.
- Heat oil/ghee in a pressure cooker, roast Moong Dal on a low flame for 2-3 minutes till it starts getting light brown in colour. Take care not to burn it ( if you don’t have a pressure cooker, read notes* )
- Now, add water along with rice, raisins and salt. Pressure cook it till 1 whistle and open when power eases off.
- In the meanwhile, in a sauce pan boil ¼ cup of water. Add jaggery and sugar to it, and let it come to boil
- Let the jaggery and sugar completely dissolve, turn off the flame and mix it well. Filter his syrup and add it to the cooked rice-lentil mixture. Mash everything well with the help of a potato masher or back of a ladle
- Now, in a separate pan, heat a tsp of Ghee/Oil and roast cashews on low flame till golden. Add clove and cardamom, give a quick stir and turn off the flame. Add in nutmeg powder and mix.
- Pour this “tadka” ( roasted nuts ) to the rice-lentil mash and mix well. You may keep some cashews aside for garnishing at this point.
- Add some more water if you need to, and cook this Pongal on a low flame for 5-7 minutes more. You may also add milk instead of water
- Serve instantly, adding more Ghee on top or without it. Cashews taste great as garnishing
Notes and Tips:
- I have made this in pressure cooker as the original recipe called for, but it can be made the traditional way by boiling rice and dal in a traditional cookware and then adding jaggery.
- If you are making it first time like I did, start with the combination of Sugar and Jaggery first. And then move forward by reducing the quanity of sugar gradually. After all, eating jaggery is way better than consuming empty calories in the form of sugar.
- I have seen that Basmati rice doesn’t work good in this dish, in fact for most of the rice based South Indian dishes. I used Sona Masoori rice, you may also use Kinki or Khichdi wale Chawal as they are often called as.
- Every region in South India has a different recipe for this Pongal, you may simply play around with spices and proportions. But I personally feel that adding cashews for a major boost in the texture, didn’t like much of raisins though.
- For a VEGAN version, use Olive oil instead of Ghee and use some cashew paste for a creamy and thick texture.
- After opening the cooker, if the rice is too dry, add 1/4 cup water or milk while mashing.
- The colour of pongal differs with the colour of jaggery.
- Original recipe calls for frying of raisins as well, i personally dont like it hence haven’t done it here. You may fry the raisins along with cashews and add later to the rice.