Pongal: A Comfort Bowl Of Protein, Carbs And Spices Put Together
Image Credit: Tastemade

Let’s reassess the fact that coming from South India is not just the Dosa, Idli, Appam, or Puddu. The South Indian food palate is vast, both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. From the never-ending list of cuisine is the savoury healthy Pongal. Surprisingly, it is a significant dish and offering that is prepared during the festival of Pongal – the harvest season. This rice dish or also referred to as porridge is made in two forms, sweet and salty. But the general reference to Pongal is that of savoury. Well, it is not just putting together rice with yellow moong dal, but brings in various health-benefiting condiments.

 The Accidental Boiling Saga Of Rice And Lentils

In its entirety, Pongal is a temple food that has been prepared for centuries as a significant offering to the Gods during the festival of Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. According to the many mythological tales, this age-old blend of rice with lentils was an accidental cooking idea. The legends have it that during the third day of Pongal the might Lord Shiva listed out a few instructions for mankind and asked his steed Nandi, a cow, to go to Earth and pass it on. The instruction was to tell the humans to take an oil bath daily and eat only once a month.

But confused with the so many instructions, Nandi misinterpreted the instruction to, “Eat daily and take an oil bath once a month”. Well, this definitely angered Lord Shiva who then sent Nandi to Earth to help a man grow more food in order to be able to survive. It is with the arrival of Nandi that Pongal became a festival.  Angered, Lord Shiva sent Nandi to earth to help men grow more food. And because of Nandi’s arrival, Pongal became a festival.

As for the preparation of the dish Pongal, some other historical accounts suggest that some 1500 years ago it was by accident that a cook in South India created the dish. The cook is said to have by mistake boiled the white rice and Moong dal, creating Pongal. However, there are other accounts that link Pongal to have been invented after the invasion of Alexander in India in 327 BC.


    4 cups water

    1 cup Rice

    1/2 cup Moong dal

    4 tbsp Ghee

    1 tsp Cumin seeds

    Salt and pepper

    1 tsp Ginger chopped

    1 tsp Cashew nuts

    1 tsp Asafoetida powder

    Curry leaves


    Add water, rice, and moong dal to a pressure cooker and give it five whistles.

    In another pan, add ghee, cumin seeds, salt, pepper, chopped ginger, cashew nuts, asafoetida powder, and curry leaves. Sauté this well and add the cooked dal and rice mixture – Pongal - well.

    Mix all this and cook for about two minutes.

    Garnish with ghee and cashew nuts. Serve!

That is the beauty of Indian cooking. The simplest of dishes are made delectable with just the right amount of spices and ghee. Pongal is at the same time the best plate of healthy nutrients served in one that even children will enjoy till the last bite.