Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Pongal (Sweet Rice)

In Tamil language, pongal means 'overflow', referring to the bubbling over of starchy water when rice is cooked. While pongal can refer to several types of rice dishes, sweet or savoury, in Malaysia it is more commonly used to describe sweet rice (sakarai pongal) cooked with milk, sweet smelling spices and sugar. 

Traditionally, this dish is cooked for a harvest festival (Thai Pongal) in Tamil Nadu, in clay pots over wood fire. The Tamil community in Malaysia still observe this festival, making pongal on the day, regardless of their involvement or the lack of, in the agricultural sector.  However, it is also enjoyed throughout the year, so don't hesitate to try it now! In essence, it is not far from rice pudding, but with a spice twist. Here's how my mum makes it:

½ cup rice
3 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
3-4 tablespoon brown sugar
100 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon ghee, or clarified butter
2 cups water
pinch of salt

Wash the rice and drain the water. In a pan, heat the pan with two cups of water until it boils. Add the cardamom and cloves and salt to season. Let it simmer further until the rice is cooked, and tries to overflow. Flavour it with ghee, brown sugar and coconut milk before adding the raisins and cashew nuts to the rice. I prefer a mushy consistency for my pongal, so I let it cook further (adding more water when needed), but if you are partial to firmer grains, you can remove the dish from the heat when the ideal consistency of rice is reached.


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    chakkara pongal recipe

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