Pongal valthukkal! I was hoping our banana trees would survive long enough into the winter that I could use their leaves during pongal–but it wasn’t meant to be. Over the Thanksgiving holiday it went below freezing. Boo!
Pongal is both a dish, a word, and a holiday in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s multiple days long. The word means “to overflow” and it’s appropriate because this is also a harvest festival when all the rice is brought in. On the day of Pongal, you make the dish also called pongal, from fresh rice and ghee and it’s incredibly comforting. It’s more or less the definition of the word.
However, I have never had access to fresh rice (even though I suppose it’s possible, there are many rice paddies near our home in California, but not in January, ha!). Because of this, I lightly roast the rice and dal before cooking.
Note: This recipe is intended to eat with a nice soupy sambhar. However, if you’re not planning on serving this with anything liquidy use an aspect ratio of 1:1 for the rice and dal. This is a good aspect ratio for eating with chutney.
Dry roast on medium heat:
- 1 cup rice
- 1/2 cup moong dal
When the rice and dal give off an aroma (2-3 minutes), add:
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ghee
Continue cooking until everything is nicely coated and warmed through (2-3 minutes)
Add to a pressure cooker (stove or electric):
- Rice/Dal mixture
- 6 cups of water
The goal is to create a kind of porridge. Cook for 3-4 whistles in your pressure cooker (or Congee setting if you’re using electric).
When done and the lid can be safely opened, mix in more salt to taste.
Meanwhile, in a pan on medium heat add:
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1-inch ginger, minced (~1 tbsp)
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 chili pepper, split
- 4-5 Curry Leaves (NOT curry powder… )
When the curry leaves are done sputtering, and the cumin seeds are browned, either…
Mix the tempering into the pongal, or the pongal into the tempering. I’ll leave which one to your own creative muse.