Posts Tagged ‘Pongal’

Ven Pongal and Pongal stories

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Though Pongal is still a few days away, the excitement that a fresh start comes with pongal always gives the enthusiasm to share about the festival and the food.

When I was a kid in school, we had this joke doing rounds about pongal.

“Which festival is useful, Pongal or Diwali”?

“Obviously Pongal. You see, for Diwali, you can eat pongal, On Pongal day also you can eat Pongal, but on Pongal day, can you eat diwali?”

Ouch..That’s a kadi joke, I agree, and for once, I am glad that I am not near any of you, in case you were about to chase me for this joke.

The beginning of Margazhi month(Dec15-Jan 15) was a welcome change for Sis and I from the usual school schedule. We used to draw kolams(rangolis) during this month and we would tour our entire street to see how our friends have decorated their front porch. We’d even have healthy competitions on who’s kolam is better.

Now, the secret about me you did’nt know till now. Back in the 1980’s, we had cows in our backyard, yup, that’s correct, cows..

Amma had the feeling that since we were kids, it is better to have a cow at home for fresh milk, yogurt and ghee instead of buying milk from the milkman. And because of that mattu pongal (pongal for cows) was also celebrated in our house.
The love of my life, N, even till this day, greets me (with glee) a Happy Maatu Pongal because of this cow story.

Pongal festival is celebrated for 4 days:

Bogi- The bye-bye’s of old stuff begin by cleaning the house, repainting and throwing away trash.
Pongal- Pongal day to thank the sun god for a good harvest and to pray for a good year ahead.
Maatu Pongal- Pongal festival for cows to thank their support for agricultural purposes and for their milk.
Kannum Pongal- A day to meet and greet relatives.

When I was at the University, completing my Bachelor’s, our Dean would keep track of people who were preparing to mass bunk the classes. Ofcourse, who would want to attend the classes for a week when at least 3 days would be a holiday along with the weekend :)

OK, Back to the real Pongal story at Home:

Mom used to make pongal from freshly harvested rice( as we also had rice fields). The entire house had the aroma of different varieties of food and flowers. Other dishes like payasam, vadais,sundals would also be prepared. Sis and I would draw a chariot kolam to welcome the sun god in to our house. Since sun also starts his journey from Makra rasi (Capricorn), it is a sort of welcome given to him in the first day of the “Thai”Month.

Dad would do the pooja and then it would be the time to offer sweet pongal and ven pongal to the gods. Then comes another unique food for Pongal- The Sugarcanes. Since sugarcanes are also harvested around that time, cutting sugarcanes into foot long pieces and slowly sucking the juice is something worth waiting.

Here is the recipe for preparing ven pongal, the savory recipe with rice, lentils and pepper.

Pongal is dish made from rice and moong dal, usually served for breakfast in Tamilnadu. It is a simple dish, and often comes into the boundaries of one pot wonders. You can either cook the rice separately and add the seasonings or just cook the rice and seasonings in the same pot. You can make this pongal in 25 minutes in a pot. This is an excellent dish to be made in a slow cooker also. I used to pick out the peppercorns while eating this dish and so my mom started using ground pepper which was a good idea as pepper has good medicinal effects.

Ingredients: (Serves 3)

Rice: 1.5 cups
Moong dhal- 3/4 cup
Salt- To taste
Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetoda – 1/4 tsp
Grated Ginger- 1 inch piece
Crushed peppercorns- 3/4 tsp or whole peppercorns – 15
Curry Leaves- 5
Ghee- 3 tbsp
Red Chili- 2
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Cashew nuts- 2 tsp

Method:

Wash the rice and dhal together and drain. In a pan or deep pot, add ghee and slightly fry the rice-dhal mixture.

Add salt, turmeric powder, pepper powder and pour 6 cups water(1 part rice: 3 parts water) to the pan and partially cover and cook. If you are using slow cooker, just make sure that you add a cup of extra water while cooking.

When the rice is cooked throughly with dhal, mash them together. Pongal has to be slightly runny and it will thicken as it sits, so the softer it is, the better. Mash the rice smoothly so that it is almost like the texture of mashed potatoes.

In another pan, heat ghee and add asafoetida and add cumin seeds,curry leaves, ginger, red chilies and cashew nuts in the same order. Pour this over the pongal.

Serve hot with Sambar, chutneys, Aviyal or kathirikkai kothsu(recipe follows soon).

This pongal is also made in a special vessel called uruli back home (pix of sweet pongal in uruli follows soon).