Ven Pongal (Rice Based Breakfast)

Pongal has several associations amongst the families of Thamizhnadu and Palakkad. Firstly, it is the celebration of the Pongal festival that falls on January 14/15 every year. It is a 4 day long festival that offers thanks to the Sun God for agricultural abundance. This festival corresponds to similar festivals all across the different states of India (though called by different names) and in many countries of South-East Asia. I refer specifically to the festival as celebrated in Thamizhnadu. On this day, two main offertories to the Sun God are sweet rice (Sakkarai Pongal) and a salty rice (Ven Pongal). But pongal is not restricted only to this festival. Sakkarai pongal is made for almost all festivals in Thamizhnadu. And ven pongal is a common breakfast dish.

Ven Pongal

1/2 cup rice (any short-grained rice – I used brown rice)
1/4 cup split green lentils (moong dal, paasi parupu)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
1″ piece ginger, chopped
About 3 to 3 1/4 glasses of water
Salt to taste
To Temper
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
3 dried red chilis, each broken into two (optional)
About 10 pieces of cashews, halved
Heat a wok and add the split green lentils
Roast on low flame till aromatic (no need to brown)
Remove from flame and transfer to a bowl
Add the rice to the green lentils
Now rinse the contents of this bowl
Drain well and transfer to a pressure cooker (or stove-top or instapot)
Add cumin seeds, ginger and salt
Add the water (the water depends upon the consistency of the pongal required – if you need a slightly watery consistency, you can add more water towards the end when the rice is almost cooked)
Pressure cook on high for 7-8 whistles
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Check the consistency (stir in more water, if necessary and cook for a couple of minutes more)
Cover and set aside
Heat a wok and add cumin seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the cashews
Roast till the cashews become golden
Add the pepper corns, curry leaves and dried red chilis (if using)
Continue roasting till everything becomes crisp (do not burn the red chilis)
Add this to the pongal and mix well
Serve hot with vathal kuzhambu, sambar and/or coconut chutney (all recipes in this blog)

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