Pongal – 2024.

Pongal is a four-day harvest festival celebrated in South India, mainly in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. The festival is a religious, cultural, and social celebration that honors the Sun god and the elements of nature for supporting agriculture. It is also known as the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving. It's a highlight of the Pongal festival, which marks the end of cold nights and the beginning of longer, warmer days. Sweet Pongal is a delicious South Indian festive dish made with rice, moong lentils, ghee, jaggery or sugar, cardamoms and nuts.

 Here's a recipe for sweet Pongal, also known as Sakkarai Pongal: 

  1. Add jaggery and water to a pan and boil until the jaggery dissolves.
  2. Dry roast moong dal and add it to rice.
  3. Add water and pressure cook for 5 whistles on low to medium heat.
  4. Strain and add jaggery syrup.
  5. Add cardamom powder and dry fruits sauteed in ghee.
  6. Serve hot with ghee drizzled.


Here are some tips for making sweet Pongal: 

  • The main ingredients for sweet Pongal are rice, moong dal, jaggery, and ghee.
  • The rice and dal should be cooked and mashed before adding the jaggery juice and ghee.
  • Pongal will thicken as it cools, so you can add ¼ to ⅓ cup hot water or hot milk if the mixture looks thick.
  • Some recipes use a 1:1 ratio of dal to rice.


What is Sakkarai Pongal

Sweet Pongal is an integral part of the menu on Pongal Thirunaal (falls on January 14th this year) or Pongal day that is the most important day of the Pongal festivities. In many ways, this festival is a ‘thanksgiving’ to the Sun god for an abundant harvest and begins with cooking pongal in large earthen pots outdoors.

The first Pongal of the year is usually a ‘paal pongal’ (Milk Pongal) where the first rice crop of the year is cooked with milk and a pinch of salt. Almost all homes cook the Ven Pongal (a popular breakfast item across Tamil Nadu) spiced with whole peppercorns and curry leaves and the sweet (Sakkarai) Pongal.

The Sakkarai Pongal recipe includes rice, chana dal, grated coconut, roasted cashews, and raisins.

‘Sakkarai’ is the Tamil word for sugar but oddly enough Sakkarai Pongal is usually cooked with jaggery and not sugar. The melting of the jaggery is the key process in this dish, which is blended with a rice and green gram mixture. Sakkarai pongal is traditionally made from freshly harvested rice, fresh ghee, and jaggery. It is flavored with spices like nutmeg, saffron, and cardamom. This is traditionally served as ‘naivedhyam’ or offering to Lord Vishnu in Hindu temples, and then distributed as ‘prasadham’ to the devotees.

The jaggery syrup is made thick and caramelized, until it reaches a glossy burgundy color, and that lends a beautiful toffee-like taste and color to the cooked rice. Nutmeg and cardamom add heaps of complexity to the dish; the saffron lends amazing fragrance, while the addition of a pinch of edible camphor enhances the flavor of the sakkarai pongal.

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