Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sarkkarai Pongal

Everytime I make idlis at home I think of those days not so long ago when you just had to stop by Saravana Bhavan or Murugan Idli kadai in T.Nagar (enroute to work!!) for a plate of steaming idlies lined with multi color chutneys and spicy sambar followed by a scorching hot filter coffee. Dangerous as it can cause food coma immediately resulting in loss of productivity for half a day :-). You didnt have to worry about cleaning the idli plates, wonder whether you can keep the sambar for lunch and put away the batter. Takes the joy out of eating a hearty breakfast. 

I particularly used to enjoy the Murugan Idli shop breakfast especially because there is no confusion on what to order :-). Jumbo idlies with buckets of sambar and their smaller bucket of idli podi. Not many people know that while the Murugan Idli Shop chain of restaurants are famous for their giant soft idlies, there is another one on their menu that may not be as famous as the idli but is to die for. The warm, brown Sarkkarai Pongal - sweet without overpowering,gooey and dripping with ghee, it used to feature in every breakfast we had there. 

This recipe is not from the restaurant, but from my grandmother. It is normally made for couple of festivals and ofcourse as and when we fancy it. The major effort required is to grate the jaggery which I have outsourced to the man of the house. So here you go - a delectable sweet not found in sweet shops. Tempting!


1 cup of rice
1/2 cup of yellow moong dal/payatham paruppu
1 cup of grated jaggery
2 tablespoon ghee
10 cashews broken
10 raisins
2 pods of cardomom (or a pinch of cardomom powder)
a pinch of salt


1. In a dry pan, lightly roast the yellow moong dal until it lightly browns.
2. Add the moong dal to the rice and wash 2 or three times.
3. Add 5 cups of water and a pinch of salt and pressure cook for three whistles. The rice and dal should be mashed up and not be very dry.
4. In a deep pan, heat jaggery along with 1 cup of water. Wait until the jaggery melts and combines well. Remove any scum from the jaggery that may float on top.
5. It is not required to bring the jaggery liquid to any particular consistency. When it thickens slightly, add the mashed rice and dal along with cardomom powder. (If using cardomom pods then add it while seasoning in ghee). Mix well until the rice is well coated with the jaggery liquid.
6. Heat a small pan with ghee and roast the cashews and raisins (along with cardomom pods if using).
8. Add the cashew and raisins along with the ghee to the pongal.
9. Mix well and remove from heat.
10. Serve warm


  • Thai Rice that is available here in South East Asia is best suited for making pongal. It is gooey and has a heavenly flavor. If Thai rice is not available, you can any polished or unpolished rice except for basmati.
  • Adjust the jaggery quantity according to your taste. If you find the pongal to be less sweet, then heat some more jaggery and water until dissolved and add to the pongal and mix well.
  • The jaggery can be grated in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • Adding a pinch of salt enhances the sweetness of the dish.
  • Don't compromise on the ghee or cashews. No point in a low calorie sarkkarai pongal. Not worth it :-)

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