Sugarcane Pongal

Farmers invest their time, money, and everlasting efforts in their farmlands to grow healthy high-yielding crops and they eagerly look forward to the harvesting season. Obviously, they regard every harvest as a sign of prosperity as they reap the benefits only at the time of harvesting. So farmers here celebrate the harvest festival, Pongal, for 4 days with fun & fervour. They thank the Mother Nature (pancha boothangal/ five elements) that helped them blessed with abundance by preparing Pongal in an open space outside their house and offer it to Sun God. Also they bathe their cows, bulls & other domestic animals including elephants and treat them with sugarcane, banana, sweet pongal, etc.

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Sugarcane Pongal

Generally, Pongal festival paints the beautiful images of pongal paanai (pot) & freshly harvested sugarcanes in the minds of every South Indian whether they live in a village or a city. During this festival, we give our children to chew the pieces of sugarcane not only to relish the sweet juice but also to strengthen their teeth. Traditionally pongal is prepared in a decorated pot over the conventional earthen stove, but people living in the cities cook pongal on stove top .

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Pongal Paanai on stove top

Lunch menu for Pongal Festival:

During this festival, we prepare an elaborate meal mainly with seasonal native vegetables & tubers and serve to our family on a banana leaf. Our Pongal meal consists of mangai oorugai, sundakkai vathal, nendran chips, paruppu vadai, vazhakkai puttu, venn-poosani kootu, vendakkai pachadi, avial, senai kizhangu varuval, kadamba sambar, rasam & mochai kuzhambu.

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Thai Pongal Thalai Vaazhai Virundhu

I have also prepared pongal sadam using thooyamalli arisi, and sakkarai pongal using aruvatham kuruvai arisi. You may check out my other Pongal festival recipes here.

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Thooyamalli arisi

Both these indigenous rice varieties are well known for their amazing health benefits. But still, people hesitate to use such nourishing rice varieties for festive feasts as these don’t look as white as the commonly used rice. I find thooyamalli arisi an exception, it really looks as beautiful as jasmine flowers (thooyamalli literally means pure jasmine). I also find aruvatham kuruvai arisi suitable for making sakkarai pongal as it turns mushy and the color does matter in here.

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Aruvatham kuruvai arisi

How to decorate pongal pot:

Nowadays we use a brass or stainless steel pot for making Pongal, decorate it with turmeric or rice flour solution and tie a flower garland or turmeric/ginger sprouts around the neck of the pot. Some prefer to buy a new earthen pot painted with traditional motifs mainly for the Pongal festival every year.

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Decorated Copper-bottom Pongal Paanai

Sugarcane Pongal Recipe:

We normally prepare sakkarai pongal with cane jaggery, here I have reduced the jaggery by half and cooked Pongal in sugarcane juice. So we could enjoy the sweetness of both the sugarcane & jaggery in this sakkarai pongal. Earlier I dined at the Hotel Saravana Bhavan and was pleasantly surprised by the addition of a few chunks of fresh coconut in the sakkarai pongal served with the meal. So I have also added chopped coconut into my sugarcane pongal. Now let’s look into the recipe for sakkarai pongal using aruvatham kuruvai arisi & sugarcane juice.

Ingredients:

Rice (Aruvatham kuruvai arisi)1 cup
Moong dal (siru paruppu)1/2 cup
Sugarcane juice2 Litres
Powdered jaggery1/2 cup
Chopped coconut meatas desired
Cashewnutsas desired
Raisinsas desired
Green Cardamom2
Gheeas desired
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How to make sugarcane pongal in pot:

  • Heat a decorated Pongal pot with sugarcane juice on high flame & bring it to boil.
  • Add the rinsed rice & dal into the pot.
  • Cook them in medium flame.
  • Keep stirring at frequent intervals to prevent it from sticking at the bottom.
  • When the Pongal is cooked soft & mushy, stir in chopped coconut & powdered jaggery.
  • Simmer until the sakkarai pongal is nicely amalgamated.
  • Finally, add powdered cardamom seeds and ghee-roasted cashew nuts & raisins.
  • Mix well and remove from heat.
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Cooking Pongal in pot
  • Serve hot karumbu pongal with breakfast and lunch.
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Pongal Thali

May the sweetness of sugarcane & jaggery bring the happiness & prosperity to you & your family! Happy Pongal!!

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