Sakkarai Pongal is short grained, raw rice cooked in jaggery and milk with mung dal, simmered until thick and then garnished with ghee, cashew nuts and raisins. It is not the traditional Milk Pongal cooked completely in milk, but is a definite favourite. It is a distinctive dish from Tamil Nadu, and also cooked in Sri Lanka and some other states in South India.
Pongal is a festival in January where we thank the Sun for the bounty that it brings us. Sakkarai Pongal is cooked in the morning as the sun rises and is presented as part of the devotions. Read more about the Pongal Festival here. And all of our dishes for the Pongal Festival are here.
But Pongal, the dish, can be made at any time. There are sweet versions like this one (called sakkarai), and you might like to try the other versions: Sakkarai Pongal from Jaffna; and Sakkaria Pongal without Milk. Check to see if we have since posted other version. Or explore some Kitchari dishes like Buttery Steamed Kitchari.
Often, Indian recipes don’t state the rice to be used, assuming a level of knowledge that people outside of Indian probably do not have. Pongal recipes use a short grained, raw rice. It needs to be a rice that goes somewhat mushy when cooked. You can find it in good Indian shops, especially if they specialise in S0uth Indian food. Ask for Pongal Rice, you will get what you need.
Sakkarai Pongal | Sweet Pongal with Milk
0.5 cup raw rice
3 Tblspn Mung Dal
2 cups water
1.5 cups milk
0.33 cup jaggery
1 tspn cashews
2 tspns raisins
3 Tblspn ghee
Dry roast the mung dal in a warm pan until golden and a nice aroma comes.
Warm the milk and add the saffron. Put aside to soak.
Melt the jaggery in just a little warm water.
Cook the mung dal and rice together until it is very cooked and soft. If you like, mash it up a little with a ladle or wooden spoon.
Add the jaggery to the rice and mung dal, stir and mix well and bring back to the boil. Add the milk and saffron and also the cardamon, stir well and simmer until it is quite thick.
Melt the ghee in a pan and toast the raisins and cashews. Add them to the pongal and stir well.
Serve and enjoy.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add more sugar if you are a real sweet tooth.
Pongal will thicken up as it cools, so stop cooking before it is sufficiently thick.
notes from Meenakshi Ammal
Meenakshi Ammal in her Vol 1 of Cook and See has a recipe that is basically the same as this one. She also includes some notes, which I include below.
Ammal cooks the rice and dal in the water and milk mixed.
After the sugar is added, she adds a tspn or two of ghee to prevent the rice from sticking.
Ammal includes a little nutmeg and some coconut which is fried off in the ghee after the cashews and raisins.
She uses white sugar if saffron is used, and jaggery if not.
If sugar is used, the amount of Mung Dal can be reduced and then supplemented with Bengal Gram dal.
cooking for Thai Pongal
In some homes, both Sweet Pongal and Ven Pongal are cooked on Thai Pongal. For that, enough rice and dal can be cooked together. Then the rice for the Ven Pongal taken and prepared as such, and sugar or jaggery added to the remainder and made into Sweet Pongal.
Ven Pongal does not use milk, so if cooking the rice and dal together for both, use only a little milk. Alternatively, cook only in water, and when enough has been taken for Ven Pongal, add milk to the rest and cook until it is fully absorbed. You will need to stir often. Continue by adding the sugar and spices and finishing with the fried nuts and raisins.