Farmers used to 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. 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 Sun, earth & also the animals that helped them blessed with abundance by offering pongal to Sun God, and also by treating their cows, bulls & other domestic animals including elephants with sugarcane, banana, sweet pongal, etc.
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. In 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. People living in the cities cook pongal in a decorated pot on stove top, and others use the conventional earthen stove for this festival.
Lunch menu for Pongal Festival:
We all prepare an elaborate meal mainly with locally grown seasonal 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.
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.
Both these indigenous rice varieties are well known for their amazing health benefits. But still people hesitate to use such nourishing rice varieties especially for festive feasts as they feel that these are not so 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.
How to decorate pongal pot:
We use brass or stainless steel pot for making pongal, decorate it with turmeric or rice flour solutions, and tie a flower garland or turmeric/ginger sprouts around the neck of the pot. But some like to buy a new earthen pot painted with traditional motifs mainly for the Pongal festival every year.
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. Since I was pleasantly surprised with the addition of small pieces of fresh coconut in the sakkarai pongal served in Hotel Saravana Bhavan, I have also added chopped coconut in here. Now let’s look into the recipe for sakkarai pongal using aruvatham kuruvai arisi & sugarcane juice.
|Rice (Aruvatham kuruvai arisi)||1 cup|
|Moong dal (siru paruppu)||1/2 cup|
|Sugarcane juice||2 Litres|
|Powdered jaggery||1/2 cup|
|Chopped coconut meat||as desired|
How to make sugarcane pongal in pot:
- Heat a decorated pongal pot with sugarcane juice in 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 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.
- Serve hot karumbu pongal with breakfast and lunch.