Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ven Pongal (White Savory Pongal) and Sarkarai Pongal (Sweet Pongal) - Margazhi Special!

"Margazhi Thingal madhi niraindha.........................." sang Andal (consort of God Maha Vishnu) and today being Margazhi (Tamil lunar month - mid Dec. to mid Jan) first day, I am all the more excited for few reasons - getting up early, lighting a few earthern lamps or diyas at your doorstep, drawing big big rangolis outside your home, taking bath and going to Vishnu temple for the special pooja and later for the "suda suda pongal prasadam" (hot hot pongal offered to God and then distributed to everyone in the Temple), singing the pasurams (songs) sung by Andal - HA! no words are sufficient to describe the happiness and peacefulness you experience during that time. When I was very young, I used to learn different kolams or rangolis everyday to draw the next morning in your entrance. I put all my heart and learn those kolams and to decorate them in your home, followed by relishing on hot hot pongal early in the winter morning. Wonderful days! I love doing it today too.

Why this pongal is so special? Well, Andal, herself gives the answer in her 30 pasurams or songs aka Thiruppavai. Getting up early in the winter days (when you feel like snuggling inside the comforter and sleep for longer time), taking bath and praying to Vishnu with all your heart, HE is going to bless you with all you want - health and wealth so much that you can make this pongal (or any food) with so much ghee (clarified butter) that ghee trickles down your elbow from your hand! (pasuram 27). And we continue seeking his blessings and finally attain salvation.

Coming back to the post......So as tradition carries us, I made the special ven and sweet pongal today for Margazhi 1st.  Generally, this pongal is made in every home during this month and on any other day too as it is one of the main breakfast menu. Some make this everyday and offer to God during this month. Here is the recipe and I hope you too would try and enjoy the special flavors and special memories of enjoying prasadmas as I am sure there are thousands like me who enjoyed those times in a similar manner.

Ven Pongal

Serves 4 - 6 people


Rice - 1 cup
Split yellow moong dhal - 1/4 cup
Water - 3 cups

To season:

Ghee - 1/4 cup
Whole black pepper - 1/2 tsp
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp
Grated ginger - 1/8 tsp (optional)
Cashews - 1/4 cup
Ground back pepper - 1/8 tsp (optional)


Wash the rice and dhal, add 3 cups of water and pressure cook for 3 whistles. Take the rice dhal mixture and mash after with salt. Heat a pan on medium flame. Add the ghee. Fry the cashews and then add black pepper, cumin, curry leaves, ginger, asafoetida and pepper powder and continue frying till cashews are golden and the spices give out the aroma. Pour it onto the rice mixture and mix well. Delicious pongal is ready to be served with cocnut chutney or sambhar or gothsu.

Sarkarai or Sweet Pongal

Serves 6 - 8 people


Rice - 1 cup
Split yellow moong dhal - 1/4 cup
Jaggery - 1 and 1/4 cup, powdered 
Cardamom - 2, crushed

To season:

Ghee - 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp
Cashews - 1/4 cup
Raisins - 2 tbsp


Wash and cook the rice - dhal, pressure cook with 3 cups of water for 3 whistles. Once it cools, mash the rice - dhal mixture. In the meantime, take jaggery, add 1/2 cup water and boil in a medium flame till all the jaggery dissolves, Strain to remove the impurities. To the jaggery water, add the cooked rice - dhal mix, cardamom and 2 tbsp of ghee. Continue cooking on a medium flame till the mixture thickens. Switch off the flame. In a pan, add 1/4 cup ghee and heat. To this add the cashews and rasins and fry till golden. Add it to the sweet rice and mix thoroughly. Yummy sweet sarkarai pongal is ready!


1. Add a couple of tbsp of ghee if you wish.
2. Mashing the rice with a big spoon (not too much) gives a great consistency, but suit your preference of separate grains or mushy texture or any where in between.