Ven Pongal | South Indian Kitcheri

Dance of the Mantis

Look at this amazing little fellow. Quite tiny, possibly newly hatched, he came hopping onto my window one summer morning. For 15 minutes he danced and preened, delighting his audience. Taking photos was difficult – using a macro lens with a shallow depth of field plus the light source (the sun) was extra bright and behind the subject. But I fell in love with this little guy’s antics. You can see more of him here.

But moving onto food. What have I been doing lately?

I have been involved in one of the most joyous activities for someone who loves cooking and loves Indian food – testing and proofing Indian Festival recipes for a publication soon to be released. In fact, I hear it is at the printers as I write. The publication will outline 15 Indian festivals and associated activities, including traditional foods that are cooked by families during the festival. The publications are aimed at Western audiences, for media when they want more information about Indian traditions, and also those who have lost touch with or are curious about the traditions of India and want more information.

I was involved in testing a number of dishes, including this one which did not make the final cut. Never mind, it is your gain! I hope to bring you the other dishes once the publication is released.


Pongal is one of those dishes that tastes so much better than it ought. You read the recipe and (unless you are Sth Indian) you go, “Nah”, and move on. Rice based, it sounds as though it could be bland.

Please think again. There is nothing not much simpler and tastier than this. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper or a snack. Eat it hot or room temperature, although it will thicken up if left to stand. I hear it is the most consumed breakfast dish in Tamil Nadu (Sth India).


Ven Pongal is a savoury variety of Pongal. Pongal can also be cooked with milk, sugar and sweet spices for a wonderful dish served traditionally at Thai Pongal, the traditional Indian festival similar to Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving held in other parts of the world. It is a time where the sun and the gods that oversee the land and growth are thanked for the abundance that has been provided. Sweet pongal is cooked under the first rays of the morning sun, outside in a tall pot over a fire. But that recipe another time.

Ven Pongal is a great dish to cook during Navratri, the 9 day Festival dedicated to the Goddess.

The key to Ven Pongal, the savoury dish, is its wonderful buttery texture achieved because the rice and dal are cooked until very very soft, mixed with spices and topped with cashew nuts. It is a wonderful, nurturing, comfort food.

Ven Pongal

Source : inspired by a collection of Indian Festival Recipes, soon to be released [UPDATE: This recipe wasn’t published, a sweet Pongal was included instead.]
Cuisine: Indian
Festival: Navratri, Thai Pongal
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it

1 cup rice
0.5 cup split mung dal
4 – 6 cups water
1 Tblspn fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tspn whole black pepper corns
1/5 tspn cumin seeds
4 – 5 curry leaves
2 Tblspn raw cashew nuts, unsalted
2 Tblspn ghee
salt to taste

Cook the rice and dal together in the water until very very soft. Perhaps use 4 cups to begin with and add more if required. It will take 20 – 30 minutes to cook. The final result will be thick, not liquid, so ease off on adding water at the end of the cooking time.

While the rice and dal is cooking, finely chop the ginger and roast it in 1Tblspn ghee.

Add the cumin, whole black pepper and curry leaves. Sauté a little without burning, to release the flavours. Set aside.

Roast the cashews in the remaining ghee until golden brown but not burnt.

When the rice and dal mixture is cooked, mix vigorously, mashing the dal and rice together. You want a buttery texture.  Mix in the spices with the ghee that they were sautéed in.

Place in a serving dish and top with the roasted cashews. Enjoy!


From The Rice Series


About Ganga108

Heat in the Kitchen, Cooking with Spirit. Temple junkie, temple builder, temple cleaner. Lover of life, people, cultures, travel. Champion of growth, change and awareness. Taker of photos. Passionate about family. Happy.
This entry was posted in 01 Mid Summer, Breakfast, Hindu, Indian, Lentils - Grains - Rice - Nuts, Navaratri, Pongal, Sankranti - Pongal, Spices and Herbs, VEGETARIAN and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Ven Pongal | South Indian Kitcheri

  1. Mallika says:

    You know I’ve never cooked pongal… thanks for the inspiration. I must try this recipe!!


  2. Maninas says:

    Sounds gorgeous to me.
    It was good to read about the project you took part it! Sounds very interesting. Let us know when the publication is out, please.

    The photos of the grasshopper are amazing, btw!


  3. Aparna says:

    Interesting new header! :)
    One of our ultimate comfort foods, this one. The book sounds good. Is it being published in Australia?


    • Ganga108 says:

      Hi Aparna, no it will be published in the US, and I am not sure of the final form, but it may be in broadsheet form, suitable for providing information on individual festivals to media etc. Although the people putting the information together I know are adept at producing things that will suit a range of formats. Who knows, it might come out in book form one day too.


  4. Lisa says:

    Pure comfort food. Lovely recipe. I would eat this anytime of day.


  5. s says:

    lovely…I too could eat this anytime!!!


  6. Srivalli says:

    Dear Ganga, our food can’t be more fortunate than having you as an ambassador for its divinity!..Pongal, a dish that can steep into your self with the way it lends itself…Never mind this didn’t make it to the final cut, it looks so good. I am looking fwd to read more on the publication you are proofing!..


  7. Srivalli says:

    Yep I agree, I just saw the header, lovely..but somehow I loved the previous one better..:) is like that can never be satisfied!..Ah..


  8. Virginia says:

    The VegeYum, I really enjoyed reading your post on dumplings. I’d never even heard of bread and butter pudding until just the other day when vegeyum mentioned them as one of the things she cooked when she was first starting out.


  9. james says:

    VegeYum. I really enjoyed reading your post on dumplings. Quite a while to set up a new blog. Word press is a good choice,


  10. amberjee says:

    Oh the South Indians at the hotel were very impressed when I went back for seconds, thirds, fourths even of the magical pongal for breakfast every morning.


  11. John says:

    I have just found your blog – what great photos! I really appreciate your perspective on my city, and your photography makes me look again at it.


  12. Bordeaux says:

    Sounds like a fun project you worked on. Really enjoyed this recipe too, sounds delicious.


  13. Spice Rack says:

    I know that it is tasty because of the herbs and spices in it but I have one question, what is that on top of the rice? Is it a shrimp or the photo of the praying mantis above. I’m sorry for asking but I am just curious about it.

    thanks also for posting this new recipe.


  14. Just stumbled on your site via twitter. Great writing and recipes. You just reminded me that I haven’t made pongal in a long time. Will surely fix that today.


  15. Anita Menon says:

    Lovely site and great recipes. This is my first visit and certainly not the last.



  16. Edda Ciprian says:

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