Venn Pongal (Savory Pongal/Kaara Pongal): Step by Step

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Have you ever eaten Venn Pongal as prasadam ‘chuda chuda’ (meaning ‘hot hot’) on a Sunday (or any day) after perumal dharisanam at the friendly neighbourhood kovil? BLISS ! Although nobody can replicate that taste in its entirety, it remains my gold standard for pongal, and this recipe comes quite close, I daresay 🙂

Venn Pongal is one of those quintessential, popularly favored breakfasts at Brahmin households. While growing up, my mom made Venn Pongal only on Sunday, because it makes for a pretty heavy breakfast/brunch which can leave you feeling stuffed (due to the presence of both rice and moong dal in it). Also, the ability of Pongal to induce sleep immediately after consumption is well-known in South Indian families 😀 So my mom preferred that we eat it only at weekends when there was no school! That said, I wasn’t too fond of the pongal my mom made, although I loved the ‘gothsu’ that she made with it.

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After getting married, I happened to have pongal at my in-laws’ place one day, and I was blown away. It was lip-smackingly delicious, with the fragrance of ghee, roasted cashewnuts, and flavored with cumin and pepper. I watched her while she made it, and perfected it over the years.  This pongal gets its taste from crushed cumin and black pepper, which is fried in ghee (clarified butter). My mom used to leave the black pepper whole, and I used to hate it when I bit into it, the sharpness upsetting my palate and the texture not helping either. My mother in law, however, crushes the spices roughly and fries it in ghee. Trust me when I say that this makes ALL the difference. The aroma and the taste this imparts to the dish is matchless! Don’t even get me started on the golden fried cashewnuts *drool*

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The crushed cumin-pepper is the secret, AND also the golden roasted cashews, AND the ghee, and so on 😀

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It is a very simple recipe, and I guarantee you really really delectable Pongal if you make this. As a bonus, I also guarantee a good nap after you eat this 😛 Read on!

Ingredients

  • Moong dal – 1/2 cup
  • Rice – 1/2 cup (Sona masoori or ponni variety, whichever you use everyday)
  • Cumin – 2 tsp
  • Black pepper – 2 tsp
  • Hing (Asafoetida) – a generous pinch
  • Ghee – 2 tbsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Cashewnuts (broken) – 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup hot water

Method

  • Roast the moong dal for 2-3 minutes until just fragrant. No need to brown it.
  • Measure out the required quantity of rice and wash it well. Now add the cooled moong dal to this washed and drained rice.
  • Pressure cook the rice and moong dal together, adding 2.5 cups of water in total. Cook for atleast 5-6 whistles, until rice and dal are fully cooked and soft. (For this dish, the rice and dal must be cooked until they lose their shape).

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  • Chop the ginger finely.

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  • Crush cumin and pepper using a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, use a mixer grinder to very coarsely powder the spices in short pulses.
  • Heat some ghee in a pan. Add curry leaves, followed by cashews. Roast until golden. Add the asafoetida.

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  • Now add the cumin-pepper powder and fry for a few seconds. Add salt and mix. Quickly add the rice-dal mixture to this.

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  • Mix thoroughly until everything is evenly incorporated.
  • Add the hot water little by little and stir to loosen the pongal to the consistency that you prefer. Don’t worry if it seems loose, it will thicken up quickly.

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  • Serve hot with gothsu, sambar and/or chutney.

TIPS & TWEAKS

  • Pongal tends to thicken and lump up as it cools. So I suggest you keep the consistency slightly runny, and allowing it to rest for 5-10 minutes. You will end up with the right consistency and taste.
  • Do not skimp on the ghee. This dish requires, nay, demands it 😀
  • I recommend that you eat pongal HOT (i.e. ‘patthika patthika’ as they say in my house) from the stove with some ghee drizzled on it. The bliss of it is something else, I tell you!

 

 

 

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