Since rice is the most crucial grain in Tamil households, it has a sacred value too.
It’s the season of festivals yet again and we are not complaining. In India, which is largely an agrarian country, harvest festivals like Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Baisakhi and Bihu hold immense importance. Makar Sankranti is celebrated when the sun transitions to Makara(or Capricorn) constellation, marking the end of the cold, frosty winter season. This ‘Uttarayan’ or the Northward movement of the sun is celebrated in myriad ways, some people fly kites, some eat khichdi, some take a dip in holy Ganges. Besides Makar Sankranti, a bevy of other festivals are celebrated across the country, all of which are also harvest festivals and a means to offer thanks to celestial bodies. Lohri in Punjab is celebrated a day prior to Makar Sankranti, whereas Pongal in Tamil Nadu is usually celebrated a day after. This year, Pongal would be celebrated on 15th January 2022.
Pongal is one of the biggest festivals of Tamil Nadu. On this day, people wake up early, take a bath and dress in fresh, new clothes. Several traditional delicacies are prepared that are savoured by friends and family. A unique tradition that most households observe is boiling rice until it spills over a bit. That’s right. This ritual would take place in open courtyards, rice and mil would be added to decorated clay pots and allowed to spillover from the rim of the pot. The symbolic ritual would signify ‘overflowing bounty’ in months to come. Since rice is the most crucial grain in Tamil households, it has a sacred value too.
Pongal is not just the name of the festival but also of the rice porridge that is cooked specially for the day, while the savoury porridge made with rice, moong dal, ghee, cashews, black pepper etc is known as Ven Pongal. The sweet one, which is also used as an offering to God, befire it is served around house is known as Sakkarai Pongal. The key ingredients include rice, cashew nuts, jaggery, cardamom, lentils and ghee. Here are some tips to make it right.
One of the most preferred rice grains to make Pongal is Sona Masoori rice, it is short-grained in comparison to Basmati, starchy and soft. Add it in a cooker with split yellow dal, salt and water. Pressure cook until cooked.
After you open the cooker, gently mash the rice and dal together. Make it mushy, but do not make a pulp out of it, the rice should still be a little grainy.
Take a pan, preheat it, add some ghee allow it to melt. Then throw in some cashews and gently roast it on medium heat till it is slightly brown and crispy, do not make burn the cashews. At this point, the aroma of ghee should fill the kitchen.
To this ghee and cashew mix, add your rice and dal mix. And mix everything gently. Add jaggery to the fag-end, cook till the jaggery is completely melted and mix everything together in one full unit.
Here is a detailed recipe of sakkarai pongal you can try out. Let us know if it is worth your time.