Pongal, the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, marks a lot of new beginnings. Houses get cleaned, new resolutions are made and there is a lot of festivity and lot of food all around.
For me, this year’s Pongal feast marked the culinary journey through the Indian states. This was the first post to be cooked, clicked and edited. It’s a different matter that it’s being scheduled to go live at the last-minute.
This meal impressed my son (and my man).The kid’s eyes lit up when he saw so many small katoris (bowls), each with a little colourful food inside. This was one platter over which I didn’t have to push,nag, plead or threaten with him over eating.
And that’s how the idea of more dishes in small quantities started. Some thali’s he was okay with, some he was not. But on the whole, it’s been fine.
Coming back to Pongal, it is a four-day harvest festival celebrated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Though it’s ideally a farmer’s festival, the entire state irrespective of their livelihood method, celebrate it.
The celebrations start a couple of days ahead with cleaning of the house, discarding old stuff and even getting your house painted and all. The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi, is celebrated with burning off old stuff.
The burning /bon fire is no longer popular, but the cleaning and discarding stuff is still done.
The second day is the main festival. Thai pongal. It’s the day we thank Lord Sun for his blessings and the harvest. Sweet pongal is made of the newly harvested rice and offered to the god.
Colourful rangolis adorn the door steps that day and the whole day has a brilliant festive feel to it.
The food is the traditional feast with lots of items, from deep fried vada to sweet payasam / pongal.
The food featured here usually gets done on the third day. Maattu pongal. It’s the day farmers worship their cattle, for helping them with the harvest. Various ‘variety rice’ are made this day. Lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice, curd rice are the most common ones.
The fourth day is the winding up day and that’s when people visit each other to celebrate the occasion. Beaches in Chennai overflow with people on this day of ‘Kaanum Pongal’.
Here, I started off the day with venn pongal (South Indian style kichidi – rice cooked with moong dal and tempered with ghee, jeera and pepper corns) with an easy sambar and sweet pongal. I served it for lunch as well, along with the colourful rices (lemon, coconut and curd rice).
- Lemon Rice : Cooked rice flavoured with lemon juice. A regular South Indian lunch box recipe.
- Coconut Rice : Cooked rice flavoured with grated coconut.
- Cheppankizhangu Fry : Taro roots/ eddoe roots fried until crisp. Pairs well with all variety rices and even rasam rice.
- Venn Pongal : Rice and lentils cooked together (like Kichidi). A popular South Indian breakfast recipe.
- Chakkara Pongal : A jaggery based sweet rice preparation. Served as a dessert.
- Curd Rice : Something South Indians cannot live without! The soothing, cooling combination of yogurt with rice. Every meal must end with this dish. The tadka here makes it all the more tastier.
- Avasara sambar(quick sambar) : This is my MIL’s recipe. Soak a handful of toor dal (pigeon pea) and keep aside. The dal needs to be soaked for 20-30 minutes. Slice 2 big onions and 5-6 big tomatoes. Heat 2 tbsp oil. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds. Once it crackles, add the chopped onions. Saute till it’s pink. Add the tomatoes. Once it’s mushy, add 1-2 tsp chilli powder, 2 tsp coriander powder and salt. Add a cup of water, this amount needs to be adjusted according to the consistency you require. By now, the dal must have soaked for some 20-30 minutes, grind it to a smooth paste and add it to the boiling sambar. The sambar will start to thicken now, taste test and adjust the seasoning. Serve with any of the tiffin items.
- Vada: The one featured here is from our lovely neighbour.