What is a traditional pongal feast like? MetroPlus finds out

The front yard is swept clean, water mixed with cow dung sprinkled and kolams drawn and decorated with colour. And then it is time for a happy breakfast of pongal made with freshly harvested rice, and vadai. Lunch is a grand feast that celebrates everything native. Arasanikkai and avarakkai rule. They are finely cut and turned into poriyal, garnished with coconut. A kootu made of surakkai, peerkangaai, poosani, arasani, avarakkai, pudalangai, kothavarai and vazhakkai are also part of the menu.

“Sakkarai pongal is an important part of the pongal festivities. It is a balanced dish as it has all the ingredients that constitute the food pyramid — cereal, pulses, sweet, dairy, nuts and fat,” says Rajamurugan, author of Nalla Soru, millet-based recipe book. While celebrating pongal, to turn sakkarai pongal healthier all you need to do is replace polished rice varieties with saamai, thinai or kudiravaali from the millets family. “Millets ensure a low glycemic index that keeps your blood glucose level in check. Millet pongal also provides additional micro nutrients. Thinai pongal has plenty of beta carotene.”

Making pongal on mann chattis and cooking it with a dollop of cow’s butter lends traditional flavour, says M. Vivek, who promotes organic food. “Traditionally, farm owners and his team of workers got together, and made five to six varieties of pongal, including inippu, kaaram, and millet-based varieties. They used karupatti and coconut generously in the preparations. Now, pressure cookers have replaced the traditional mud pots. But still, one can get the dose of goodness by using millets and cow’s butter.”

Pongal is the time for farmers to rest after the harvest season and prepare themselves for the tougher days ahead. For them, unavu is marundhu. For instance, elaichi and sukku powder ensures easy digestion on a day when the plate is full of rich food.


Saamai milagu pongal


Saamai arisi - 1 cup

Yellow moong dal – 1 cup

Grated ginger – 2 teaspoon

Pepper – 1 teaspoon

Jeera- 1 teaspoon

Cashew – 20 gms

Ghee- as required

Salt - as required


Soak Saamai arisi for 10 minutes. Soak yellow dal for five minutes. Wash saamai arisi and yellow dal and add it to three cups of boiling water. Allow it to cook till it is well mashed.

Heat ghee in a pan, fry cashew till golden. Next, sauté ginger, jeera and pepper in ghee.

Add to the rice-dal mix.

Note: You can make milagu pongal with kudiravaali arisi too.

Thinai Inippu pongal


Thinai arisi - 250 gms

Yellow moong dal - 100 gms

Jaggery (grated) - 200 gms

Ghee - 50 ml

Cashew - 1 teaspoon

Raisins - 1 teaspoon

Elaichi powder - a pinch

Sukku powder - a pinch


Soak thinai arisi for 20 minutes. Soak yellow dal for 10 mins. Bring to boil a litre of water, add soaked yellow dal. Once cooked, add thinai arisi to it. Add grated jaggery after the rice is cooked and simmer till it thickens.

Fry cashewnuts and raisins in ghee and add to the mixture. Finish with a sprinkling of elaichi powder and sukku powder.