01 August, 2008

Food from Heaven: Pongal


Some foods are comforting. Some are nutritious. And some are simply divine. Pongal is one such dish which is comforting, nutritious and also divine. Just the thought of ‘Pongal’ conjures up sweet memories of my Doddappa and Doddamma performing the Puja daily in their estate temple. Growing up in a joint family for first 6 years of my tender life, I remember spending most of my time with my Doddappa (Dad’s elder brother) and Doddamma (Dad’s SIL). For me they were another set of loving grandparents as my Appa was just one year old when Doddamma stepped into our large joint family as a first daughter-in-law, taking huge responsibility on her very young shoulder. No wonder my Appa felt so close to his ANNa (brother) and Attige (SIL) and involved them in almost all the major decisions he took.

I was one of those spoiled little brats who was born in a large joint family when almost all other kids were in their early teens. Yes, I was the only baby in our big family and was never short of love, affection and undivided attention from everyone. I grew up being a centre of attention and attraction for two happy years of my life till my little sister decided to pop all of sudden and spoil it for me ;) Grudgingly I had to share spot light with my sister and soon with my cousin brother. I remember asking my Dodda’s whom they loved the most. And every time they would hold me close to their heart and whisper it was me and it will always be me.

It was no surprise I spent most of my time playing in my Doddappa’s clinic which was attached to the main house, than playing with my sister and other cousins. I was his little helper. It was while counting the tablets for his patients I got my first lessons of mathematics. It was while picking the herbs from his herb garden for medicines where I leant the basics of Ayurveda. It was while helping the people to cure their disease and relive them from pain where I learnt about empathy and the art of being a good listener. And above all these I learnt how to be kind, generous and a good human being from my Doddas.

After moving to different city for education, I and my sister would eagerly look forward to our Navarathri and summer holidays where we would spend one full week at our Doddas estate. Every morning I would wake up the waft of sandalwood, heady smell of Agarbatti and Dhupa and the fast rhythmic chanting of my Doddappa sitting on floor in lotus position in Devara Kone (God’s room). While Doddappa was busy performing the Puja, Doddamma was busy with her daughters-in-law preparing Neivedyam which was offered to God. One day it would be just plain steamed rice, other day it would be Rice Payasam. But it would always be Pongal for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and festivals. Rice and lentils cooked with few spices till they fall apart and become little mushy, a lovely medley offered to God. While green chilli and black pepper corns give it small dose of spiciness, tadka and ginger gives it a wonderful flavour. This Neivedyam was taken to the small temple in our estate where it was first offered to God and then given to us in a small bowl made using Jackfruit leaves as Prasad (blessed food). Oh!!! Fond memories of childhood and the people who made it so much special and wonderful….

My favourite way of making Pongal is with good spoonfuls of Thuppa or Ghee, just the way Doddamma made it. Whenever I make it here I can almost hear her saying
“Make sure you don’t insult Pongal by using just a spoonful of Thuppa. Be generous with Thuppa when you make Pongal because it is God’s food. If you can’t make Pongal with lots of love and Ghee then it is not fit for you, your family and your God.”
I try to remember my Doddamma’s pearls of wisdom like these while cooking. Some foods are just divine and they are meant to be cooked that way. This post is very dear to me and it is dedicated to two people who are very close to my heart. In two days it will be the first death anniversary of my Doddappa. It will be a grand celebration because he believed in celebrating life and death, which was just the beginning of new life. Doddappa and Doddamma, I miss you. I am sending thsi food from heaven to Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook, who is hosting My Legume Love Affair-Second Helping.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Pongal (Rice & Lentils Medley)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2-4
Recipe Source: My Doddamma
1½ cups Rice (preferably Sona Masuri or you can use Basmati as I have used here)
1 cup Yellow Moong Dal/Split Green Gram
½ cup Cashews
8 cups Milk+Water (I used 1 cup Milk+7 cups Water)
2-3 Green Chillies, slit (Optional)
1 inch Ginger
1 tsp Black Pepper Corns, lightly crushed or used as whole
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Few Curry Leaves
3-4 tbsp Thuppa/Ghee/Clarified Butter
Salt to taste
Rice, Moong Dal & Cashews for Pongal

Heat a pan and add yellow moong dal. Roast it on medium flame, sautéing continuously, till it turns golden yellow, about 3-4 mins. Let it cool completely.
In a same pan add ½ tbsp of ghee and add cashews. Roast it on medium to low heat till they turn golden. Keep it aside.
Mix roasted moon dal and rice and wash it in cold water 3-4 times till the water turns clear. Drain all the water and keep it aside.
Heat 2 tbsp of Ghee in a thick bottomed pan or pressure cooker. Add jeera, pepper corns and curry leaves. When jeera starts to sizzle, add slit green chillies, ginger, rice and dal and mix well till every grain is coated with ghee, about 1-2 mins.
Now add milk, water and salt to taste and mix well. Cover the pressure cooker lid with weight and cook it on medium-high flame for 15-20 mins. Let it the pressure be released completely before opening the lid, about 5 mins.
If using thick bottomed pan, cover the lid and let it cook undisturbed for 10-12 mins on high flame. By this time water will start to bubble and pour from vessel. Remove the lid; mix the rice and lentils properly. Again cover the vessel with lid, leaving little gap to escape the steam. Let it cook this way for another 5-10 mins till the rice and dal is plumped and doubled in volume. Remove the vessal from gas.
Mix in roasted cashews with ghee, 1-2 tbsp of ghee. Cover and let it sit for another 10 mins for the flavours to blend. Serve this hot with any chutney, lightly spiced curry/Kurma or with my favourite, Raita or plain curds.

Pongal served with Mango & Yogurt : My Divine Food

The consistency of Pongal can vary depending on your preference. Some people prefer it very mushy like porridge and add more water while making it. So please adjust the water and milk quantity according to your preference.

Related Posts:

Reminder for JFI-Soya:
I invite you all to celebrate Jihva for Ingredients with this month’s theme JFI-Soya. Choice of Soya products, the recipe, ingredients, method etc is entirely left to you. I would greatly appreciate if you can send me any Vegan or Vegetarian recipes but I leave it to your choice. Soya foods include tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (chunks, mince etc), miso, soya sauces, soya oil and margarine, and soya dairy alternatives.

Deadline: 31st August, 2008

Please go through the guidelines and include all the required information in your post and also in your e-mail while sending your entry. Don't forget to add Your Name, Your Blog Name, Name of the Dish, Type of Dish and Perm Link of the entry along with the gorgeous Photo of final dish.

Click Here or on the logo to find out more information on this event.


  1. Sia, atlast after a long time I got hold of my favorite blog. And pongal is my all time favorite and I like it so very much if its cooked mushy with lots of ghee. And sambhar or a gotsu is my fav combo. I can eat it 3 times a day :) Just saw the JFI announcement and also came to know th last date for JFI-Edible flowers is gone :( I shud be able to do this I believe!

  2. wow..looks great..and nice knowing your doddappa...lucky you grew up with such great ppl..

  3. i never knew about mango-pongal combo :) looks lovely!

  4. Aah! I was waiting for this!!

  5. I absolutely love pongal. at home, we have it with something called gojju which is truly yummy too! :) makes me want to reach in and grab a spoonful!

  6. Was nice to read the memories associated with this dish.

  7. The pictures look Heavenly, divine and the dish is definitely nutritious with the moong dal.. This might disappoint you, but I hardly make this, and it is not comfort food for me. :-( Love your post, really great memories to cherish, nothing like childhood spent among loving, doting elders who teach all the first lessons in life, and all the words of wisdom...:-)

  8. Very beautiful narration fo your childhood days Sia. And your post shows how much you loved your Dodda's :-)
    The Pongal looks divine as it should and i love the pearls fo wisdom from your doddamma.

  9. I always order this at the temple canteen here in New Jersey, they make some awesome pongal and tomato chutney! I agree this is a comfort food

  10. Sia this looks too good. You know I've never made pongal, but it's such a wonderful dish and so easy to make.


  12. After Idli, TN is popular for the Pongal! Well, now u make me to cook tonight Pongal! Tasty pic Sia :)

  13. yummm..pongal! I've only had it in restaurants. Now that I have your recipe, I might give it a try. Thanks for sharing Sia!

  14. Pongal looks awesome and delicious....Its my favorite one.....I am drooling now....

  15. It does look delicious! Lovely backstory. Thanks for sharing both.

  16. Hi Sia...
    Pongal Looks heavenly.... Ur staple breakfast on Saturday mornings. YUM!

  17. I was in a cooking drought...wanted to make something different. I am going to try this today. Sia, i have made so many recipies from your blog i have lost count...thanks a bunch.

  18. I just made the pongal..it was awesome..thanks a lot :)

  19. Growing up I was not fond of pongal. But now, I really enjoy this, esp since this is one of my quick-fix meals & more importantly, M likes this too (it's hard to say she loves anything coz she's too fussy!). Nice reading about your doddappa & doddamma. Beautifully written post, Sup!

  20. Hello Sia,

    Wow! that was wonderful presentation of Pongal.And also liked the new look of your blog.Haven't got chance to visit your blog for a while.I am in India for the past 3 months...Will be back in a month.Keep posting wonderful recipes as usual.

  21. helllo hello ... howz u .... sorry for not dropping by these days.... u can make good old pongal also so so .... beleive me no words.... hats off to you... i loveee pongal... and cashews r a must for me....

  22. and hey... soya as the ingredient.... u know i got tofu for the first time.... i love this...

  23. Got a small something for you at my blog..

  24. Nice post! Pictures look awesome as usual..we love Pongal too..

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. @all,
    thank u friends:) pongal is one of my fav comfort foods and glad to know there r many out there who agrees with me:)

    good to see u girl and i hope u get time to cook something for JFI:)

    @valli, nags, coffee, jayashree, latha, mallika, notyet100, sireesha, eatingclub, sukanya, divya, pragyan, lg
    thanks girls. and nags, this is not a mango and pongal combi. mangoes are served with pongal as we enjoy fruits with our meals.

    do u have the recipe for gojju served with pongal?

    one's comfort food neednot be the same for other. many think chocolate as their comfort food but for me its a pure indulgence:)

    and i loved the ones served at iscon temple in b'lore. pure bliss...

    @cham, dindin,
    i hope i did inspire u to cook this soon :)

    i am glad to know u have tried many recipes from my blog anu. i hope u liked them to. thanks for letting me know:)

    muaah to little M:) kids food preference changes every other day isn't it? i remember giving real tough time to amma while growing up;)

    so good to see u girl. 4 months in india? wow, i am all J :)
    enjoy girl.

    where have u been girl? missed ur chattar-pattar;) i hope u cook someting nice with that tofu and send it to me:)

  27. Oh yes, pongal is food from heaven. No doubt about it.

  28. This Pongal looks divinely nutritious! (thanks to the Tuppa!)

    I think I should be planning a trip to London soon. M just cannot keep up with all your dishes!

  29. love pongal, its really a comfort food. Lovely pics.

  30. I am a regular visitor of Monsoon Spice.This is truely an excellent blog.I thank you for posting so many recipes which turned out to be super duper hit in my kitchen.You have really made my cooking experience sooooo much better.I am a Mangalorean and you always take me down the memory lane to my childhood and college days.

  31. I am a regular visitor of Monsoon Spice.This is truely an excellent blog.I thank you for posting so many recipes which turned out to be super duper hit in my kitchen.You have really made my cooking experience sooooo much better.I am a Mangalorean and you always take me down the memory lane to my childhood and college days.

  32. All the dishes i tried from Monsoon Spice are delicious.

  33. Thank you, dear Sia, for sharing a lovely portrait of family memories. Good writing, as well as your fine pongal, will spoil us all.


Namaste! I am Sia and welcome to Monsoon Spice, my virtual home. Thank you for all your comments, inputs and feedback. I really appreciate the valuable time you spent browsing through my recipe repertoire.

I hope you have found what you are looking for today. Feel free to leave any questions or queries you have on the recipes posted here. If you have any recipe requests, please drop a line at Ask Sia page. I will try to respond to all your queries as soon as possible to best of my knowledge.

I welcome all your valuable inputs and constructive criticism as long as it is meant to help and improve the blog. I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude, abusive, written with the intent to advertise, contain profanity or considered spam.

I hope that you will stop by again to read my rants, learn new recipes and share your ideas. Have a good look around and enjoy your time here. Thank you once again!