This is one of the most comforting, simple and healthful foods I have ever eaten. The rice and split moong beans are cooked until they are very soft and pudding like in consistency. The flavour comes from ghee flavoured with cracked black pepper, fresh ginger and cumin. In addition to being delicious, I find these seasonings to be very calming for my stomach. Roasted cashews provide a little texture and sweetness. It is eaten as a breakfast food in South India. I have also learned that it is prepared in celebration of the Hindu festival Pongal which marks the beginning of the sun’s northward journey on January 14th, and the new rice harvest.
I ate Ven Pongal for the first time years ago at a vegetarian South Indian restaurant in Manhattan. You had to reserve a table for a large group and they would bring you a meal to share at the table. The price of the meal also included seconds. The dish that we ordered seconds of was the rice and moong dal pudding. When I got home that night, I poured over my cookbook collection (this was before the internet was a thing, at least in my life). My favourite Indian cookbook , Classic indian and Grain Cooking by Julie Saini, had a recipe for Ven Pongal that seemed much too simple to produce such a sublime result. More recently. I have consulted the internet and learned that it is not uncommon to add curry leaves, asafoetida and green chili peppers. Curry leaves do add a wonderful delicate flavour if you can find them. I personally do not perceive the asafoetida much, but I have it, so I throw it in. I do not like to use the green chili peppers because the cracked black pepper already provides heat. Also, I use 5 cups of water rather than 3 and 1/4 cups to insure that the pudding like consistency is achieved. Since Pongal is a harvest festival, Ven Pongol is supposed to be made with recently harvested rice. In general, my rice has been kicking around on a store shelf or in my pantry for years, so I need to use more water.If you cannot get Moong Dal, you could substitute with dry yellow split peas. Yellow split peas are much larger than split moong beans, so you will need to soak them for at least 4 hours and skip dry roasting them with the rice. While this is not authentic, it is totally delicious. You can purchase ready-made ghee or make it yourself. It is not at all hard to make.VEN PONGAL
- 1/2 cup split yellow mung beans (moong dal) or yellow split peas (if using split peas read the not above)
- 1 cup long grain rice (I used white basmati)
- 6 Tablespoons usli ghee (directions for making ghee click here)
- 3 and 1/4 to 5 cup water (I use 5 cups)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- pinch of asafoetida (optional)
- several fresh curry leaves (optional but very good)
- 1/2 cup roasted cashews
- In the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, dry roast the moong dal and the rice for a few minutes over medium heat.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of ghee and fry for another few minutes.
- Add the water and salt, increase the heat to high. Cover the pot and allow it to come to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes with the lid on. Give it a stir, cover the pot tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Let it cook for another 20 minutes. Turn the heat off, but keep the lid on while you prepare the seasoned ghee.
- In a skillet, heat the remaining 4 Tablespoons of ghee over medium high flame. When the ghee is hot, add the cumin seeds, cracked peppercorns and fresh ginger. Sizzle for five seconds then add the asafoetida and curry leaves (if using). Sizzle for 5 more seconds then pour the oil and all of the spices into the pudding, stirring to combine. Let the pudding rest and allow the flavours to combine for five minutes before serving.
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