Chakkarai/Sakkarai Pongal is perhaps the sweet dish that is made most often at my home. If there were ever a ‘default’ dessert in my house, it is this 😀 And that speaks volumes about the universal love that everyone has for its deliciousness, because people in my house especially have super picky palates. Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any festival, sakkarai pongal is the preferred dessert of choice here. This is a traditional Iyengar temple-style recipe that my MIL and her MIL (which is my husband’s grandmother) and generations before have been making in our family. I feel so blessed and lucky to have learnt the recipe of this dish, and even happier to share it with you guys. This is a treasure, and trust me when I say this tastes just like Perumaal Kovil prasadham !! 😀
Sakkarai pongal is traditionally made from freshly harvested rice, fresh ghee and jaggery. It is flavoured with spices like nutmeg, saffron and cardamom. This recipe is for Iyengar style kovil Sakkarai Pongal, although nothing can ever beat what is made in the temple with so much devotion, prayers and pure love! 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 caramelised, until it reaches a glossy burgundy colour, and that lends a beautiful toffee like taste and colour 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.
Read on for the recipe!
- Pacha karpooram – a pinch
- Saffron – 15 strands
- Moong dal – 1/4 cup
- Rice (normal variety, not basmati) – 1/2 cup
- Jaggery – 3/4 cup
- Ghee – 1/4 cup
- Milk – 1/4 cup
- Nutmeg – a pinch
- Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
- Cashewnuts – 10 to 15
- Raisins – 10 to 15
- Measure out your moong dal into a kadai. Add a tsp of ghee and roast for few seconds (not until browned, just until aroma rises – for about 30 to 40 seconds on a medium flame) (forgot to take a picture of this step – sorry!)
- Now add water to moong dal and rice in the ratio of 1:3 (rice to water). Cook moong dal and rice together for 6-8 whistles.
- Switch off stove and wait for cooker to release pressure naturally.
- Roast cashewnuts and raisins in 1 tbsp ghee, until golden. Set aside.
- Soak 10-15 strands of saffron & a pinch of crushed edible camphor in 2 tbsp of warm milk. Set this aside for 10 minutes.
Filtering the jaggery syrup
- Take a wide bottomed kadai. Add the broken jaggery to this, and add just enough water to cover the jaggery.
- Melt the jaggery on medium flame while stirring, until all jaggery is melted into a syrup without lumps.
- Switch off stove.
- Strain this syrup so that all impurities and sediments are removed. Do NOT skip this step (see notes)
- You will get a clear syrup that is smooth and does not have any sediments.
- Transfer this back into the kadai.
Boiling the jaggery syrup
- Bring the jaggery syrup to a rolling boil on medium flame.
- You will see it frothing and boiling well.
- Take a cup of cold water in another bowl.
- After about 8-10 minutes, you will see the syrup deepen in colour and become sticky, like caramel.
- Take a little bit of syrup and drop into the water. It will instantly cool down.
- Pick it up and try to roll it between your fingers. It should roll up into a perfect ball. This is the consistency your syrup needs to reach, to be ready for the pongal.
Making the pongal
- Switch on the stove and keep it in low flame, add the cooked rice and lentils to this. Pour the jaggery syrup into the cooked rice and lentil mixture.
- Add the saffron strands & edible camphor soaked in milk to this.
- Add the roasted cashewnuts and raisins as well.
- Add the warm milk to this. Milk needs to be warm to hot, not cold.
- Now mix well with the ladle until everything evenly comes together. Mash with a wooden ladle if required. Let it boil in really low flame for 1-2 mins.
- Add ghee, mix well and switch off the stove.
Enjoy with a generous drizzle of ghee on top! 🙂
TIPS & TWEAKS
- Moong dal must be half the quantity of rice.
- Store refrigerated, in a covered airtight container. Just microwave (for 30 seconds) or heat up on stove for a few mins, and then serve warm.
- Add very little pacha karpooram, else it will overpower the dish.
- Be generous with the saffron, it will add a lovely fragrance and colour!
- If you want a deeper colour, avoid adding milk to the pongal at the end. It will still taste amazing. Personally, I like as well as suggest adding the milk as it gives a creamy finish to the pongal.