Ven Pongal is the South Indian breakfast version of khichidi and is made of moong dhal (green gram lentils) and rice, pressure cooked and tempered with cumin, coriander leaves, pepper and ghee.
It is a popular breakfast, served with chutney and sambar and also along with dal vada or vadai, made from deep fried lentil batter. Ven Pongal is easy to make and is both nutritious and tasty, specially when it is tempered with ghee, garnished with fried cashew and served really hot.
Surprisingly, one of the best Pongals that I have had has been at Bangalore Airport. Whether it was the hunger pangs before boarding an early morning flight, or the fact of the Pongal being served hot with a tasty chutney, the aroma and consistency made for a flavourful breakfast.
Even better was the hot Ven Pongal prasadam at the Kapaleeswarar Temple at Mylapore, at Chennai (Madras as it was once known). As school girls, my cousins Ramaa, Kamini and I would conscientiously participate in the bhajan processions every morning during the Tamil month of Margazhi, even though it meant waking up at 4.30 on a chill misty morning, having a bath and joining the processing to sing bhajans while walking around the 4 long streets bordering the temple. The procession culminated at the Temple itself and we would be the first to receive the hot and very tasty Ven Pongal with the ghee floating amidst the round peppercorns in the dhonai (leaf cup) full of pongal. We would attack this tasty food, complacent and feeling rather virtuous as we would not have had coffee in the morning and had broken our fast only with the prasadam.
I was not very good at making Ven Pongal when I first tried it out. It would turn out lumpy and not very attractive. Compounded with the fact that one had to make sambar along with the pongal, I was not too keen on it as a breakfast item. Pramod was very fond of the pongal and would order it whenever he went to a Restauraunt serving Tamil cuisine, as he liked the taste of the sambar there.
When I started this blog and got back to cooking in real earnest, I did make Ven Pongal again after many years – and now the pongal gets made as it should, with right consistency, full of flavour and the goodness of the ghee and cashew nuts. I have finally learnt to make an authentic Ven Pongal!
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