Ven pongal or Khara pongal is not something I grew up eating. It is a popular South Indian dish made with rice and yellow moong dal, and typically flavoured with black pepper, cumin, ginger, and ghee. It’s often served as a breakfast dish and during Pongal festival. Since being married to a Tamilian who is not really a pongal fan, I rarely make pongal at home but it does make for a creamy, delicious treat on rare occasions, for myself.
My MIL makes a mean ven pongal and I have taken a few tips and tricks from her to make sure we novices can also get good results when making pongal in our kitchens.
- About ven pongal
- Key Ingredients
- Pongal and the festival connection
- Tips to make pongal
- Jump to recipe
- Step by step images
A bit about ven pongal
Ven pongal is a soft cooked mash up of raw rice and yellow moong dal (lentils) with extra water to give it a creamy texture. It is a popular breakfast or festival dish in Tamil Nadu and is typically seasoned with black pepper and cumin, and garnished with ghee. Ven Pongal has a creamy and soft texture, and it is often served with coconut chutney and sambar or a delicious side dish called Gotsu.
Ven pongal made by cooking rice and split yellow moong dal together, usually in a pressure cooker, until they become soft and mushy. The tempering or tadka is an important step in making Ven Pongal, as it adds flavour to the dish. The tempering usually includes ingredients like black pepper, cumin seeds, ginger, curry leaves, and asafoetida, which are sautéed in ghee before being added to the soft cooked rice and dal.
There are a few variations in ven pongal recipe depending on each household and the flavour can change quite a bit depending on the proportions of each of the basic ingredients, which usually remain the same.
Ven pongal and Pongal festival
Ven Pongal is commonly prepared during the Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu, a harvest festival celebrated in January. Due to this, the “new rice” is made to cook pongal. However, Pongal can certainly be enjoyed throughout the year as a filling and comforting meal. The dish is known for its simplicity, yet it’s delicious and satisfying and many who live away from home crave a good hot plate of Pongal on rainy days.
Tips to make pongal
- Rice to Lentil Ratio: A common ratio is 1:1, but you can adjust it based on your preference. We prefer prefer a higher proportion of rice for a softer texture, so you will find I have used 1 cup rice for 1/2 cup moong dal
- Rinsing: Always rinse the rice and lentils thoroughly before cooking, to remove excess starch. This helps in achieving a fluffy and soft texture.
- Type of Rice for Pongal: Traditionally, short-grain rice like raw sona masuri is used for making Pongal. You can use raw ponni rice too with good results. Remember to choose raw rice vs par-boiled rice while shopping for ingredients to make pongal
- Tempering or tadka: The tempering adds a lot of flavor to Pongal, which is otherwise quite a bland combination of rice and lentils. Use fresh ingredients like whole black pepper, cumin seeds, grated ginger, and curry leaves. The roasting of these spices in ghee enhances the overall taste.
- Ghee: Don’t skimp on ghee, this is important. Adding a generous amount of ghee not only enhances the flavour but also gives a rich and creamy texture to the Pongal. I typically use homemade ghee but store-bought ghee absolutely works fine too
- Asafoetida or Hing: Asafoetida is an important ingredient in the tempering, as is the case for most TamilNadu recipes. It adds a unique flavour to the dish.
- Cashews: For me, there’s no pongal without some golden roasted cashewnuts to bite into but I will say this is optional, in case you are allergic or prefer not to use them
- Consistency: Adjust the final consistency after cooking the rice and lentils by adding more hot water. The Pongal should be creamy and not too dry. I have also seen hot milk being added to increase the softness of potentially dry pongal.
- Serve Hot: Pongal is best enjoyed when it’s freshly made and hot. Serve it immediately after preparation.
- Accompaniments: Pongal pairs well with coconut chutney, sambar, kathirikai gotsu or even a simple side of yogurt and pickle as my husband likes it.
I know that seems like a lot but making Pongal is a straightforward process, and these tips can help you achieve a delicious end result, especially if you are new to cooking pongal. Adjust the ingredients and proportions to suit your preferences, as always.
Ven Pongal Recipe
- 1 cup raw rice not par-boiled rice
- 1/2 cup split yellow moong dal paasi paruppu
- 1/2 tsp whole black pepper adjust to taste
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds jeera
- 1 tsp ginger minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup cashew nuts
- A few curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida hing or perungaayam
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 2 tbsp oil or just use more ghee
- Rinse 1/2 cup split yellow moong dal until water runs clear and soak for 30 minutes
- Wash 1 cup raw rice and add the soaked dal to this along with 3 cups water
- Place in a bowl in a pressure cooker with water. You can also cook it directly in the pressure cooker but we usually do it this way.
- Add 1/2 tsp whole black pepper and 1/2 tsp cumin seeds to this along with 1 tsp ginger minced
- Cook for 4 whistles or 15-20 minutes. The rice and dal should be cooked and very soft. Keep aside.
- Powder or crush together 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp black pepper for tempering. Keep aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil or ghee in a large pan and add 1/4 cup cashew nuts.
- When they turn a light golden brown, add 1/4 tsp asafoetida, the powdered cumin and pepper, and A few curry leaves
- Roast well and add the cooked rice and dal mixture to this
- Add salt and top up with 3 tbsp ghee (or more as needed) and mix well to combine fully
- Serve immediately
Step by Step Ven Pongal Recipe
Soak washed moong dal for 30 minutes
Wash the rice and add the soaked dal to this along with 3 cups water. Place in a bowl in a pressure cooker with water. You can also cook it directly in the pressure cooker.
Cook for 4 whistles or 15-20 mins until the dal-rice mixture is soft and mushy.
Powder the cumin seeds and pepper under “tempering ingredients” together
Heat oil (or just use ghee) and add the cashew nuts. Once they are golden brown, add all other ingredients to temper.
Turn off heat and add the cooked rice-dal mixture to this.
Mix everything well with salt and add more hot water if the pongal is too try.
Serve ven pongal hot!