Wishing you a Happy Thai Pongal and Tamil New Year!
I wish you all a Happy Thai Pongal and Tamil New Year! Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival where thanks are given to nature, the Sun and farm cattle for providing grain and harvest. This year, it is celebrated on January 14th.
Traditionally, farmers also harvest their new crops for the year this day, including rice, sugar cane and turmeric. Farmers also honour the cattle the next day, for Maatu Pongal, where they give their cows a bath and adorn it. Pongal is not a religious festival, it is a cultural festival, therefore, Tamils of all faith participate in the celebrations.
The etymology of Thai Pongal can be traced to the meaning of its root words “pong” and “thai,” which mean “to boil” and “January” in Tamil. Thai Pongal marks the first day of a new year, and a new month of the Tamil calendar.
A special dish of Pongal is made to celebrate (what is a festival celebration without food, right!) Pongal is made with a pot of rice, milk and jaggery. You let this dish boil until it boils over the pot, in belief that doing so will result in a bountiful year. Other dishes are prepared in addition, including vadai, aval and kadalai.
If you grew up in a Tamil household, you probably heard the phrase “Thai piranthaal, vali pirakum;” many believe that with the onset of a New Year, better pathways and beginnings will follow. Traditionally, as the Tamil society has largely been an agrarian society, many weddings were held in January, as families were able to bear the expenses of a wedding. Nowadays, with migration, this has changed, and weddings are held throughout the year.
Here’s a recipe for Pongal. I hope you celebrate by giving thanks and making a dish of Pongal and other tasty treats!
- You can adjust the quantities if you are making more.
- Rice - 1/2 cup
- Jaggery - 1/2 cup (or more if you like your pongal to be sweeter)
- Pasi paruppu (Moong dal) - 2-3 tablespoons
- Nei (Ghee) - 2 tablespoons
- Cardamon - 3-4 made into a powder or use cardamon powder
- Cashews and raisins - 1-3 tablespoons
- Saffron - to garnish
- Salt - to cook rice
- Milk - 1/4 cup
- In a pan or pressure cooker, roast the pasi parrupu until it begins to brown.
- Add 2 1/2 cups of water, washed rice and let it cook until it becomes soft.
- In a separate pan, melt the jaggery into a liquid. Melt it on low heat so not to burn it.
- Mash the rice, which should be soft.
- Strain the jaggery liquid and add it to the mashed rice.
- Add the cardamon powder and milk and let it cook for another 5 minutes. (Check the pot to make sure it does not burn, you don't want burnt pongal!)
- In a separate pan, fry the raisins and cashews in ghee.
- Remove from pan when it is golden brown and add this to the pongal and mix. Leave some aside to garnish the top.
- Garnish with saffron, cashews and raisins.
- The colour of your jaggery will determine the colour of your pongal. The more and darker jaggery you use, the darker your pongal will be.
- You can adjust the water and milk quantities if you need to get a soft pongal and prevent burning as everyones stove cooks slightly different depending on the pot you are using.
- You can add grated coconut also for flavour.