02 February 2022

Sweet Pongal/Chakkara Pongal/Sakkarai Pongal and Ven Pongal/Khara Pongal

Idli,vada,sambar and Pongal - ANYONE???

 Exercise? I Thought You Said Extra RICE! ~ Honey P. 

Well, can't blame him, being an Indian, and to top that, being a south Indian, rice is a staple and comfort food. Rice and curries keep us grounded and rooted in our Indian traditions, rekindle so many childhood memories, literally a taste of India being away from the homeland, ensuring that feel, being at home, wherever we are...

BUT there is a catch, we find it very difficult to eat less and easy to skip exercise ..You see, for me, "Health is wealth !". It is not about having an amazing body, it is all about having a healthy body. (The entire wealth of Mr.Steve Jobs couldn't save his life (with due respect and honor..RIP!), it did hurt to see his health deteriorating than his Apple Phone doing well in the world market for me...That's why I bite the Apple fruit and Honey P prefers the Apple phone more, hence the emphasis !)

And Rice is a high carb food that when consumed too much daily can lead to weight gain and other diseases. So,I am a tad scared about rice yet it is one of our favorite go-to meals, easy to make, and goes well with all south Indian curries like fish and other seafood especially....

Story of my life !

However, the good thing about my hubby is that he doesn't like desserts that much,he can control the urge but I can't πŸ˜”...Sweets are my weakness!πŸ˜‹ But I know how to avoid them as much as possible...But what is a life full of dietary restrictions,I like to break the rules BUT for the right reasons....For instance, during festivals or once in a while for sure...And I love to make something that I can enjoy with my hubby, to eat alone is not fun...

He orders, I make...And I am very thankful that he loves everything I make for sure and so do my friends, my little one loves it too (Touchwood and the entire tree !)....Of course, sometimes it is a sheer disaster but practice and passion to cook make one perfect right ?.... One of the main reasons how I fell in love with food, cooking, and then blogging = My simple NIRVANA!

Lord Krishna gave me his zodiac star as a confirmation that I am his Kaliyug ki Meera (uncomparable to the original bhaktha/staunch fav. devotee MeeraBai (with due respect !)πŸ™‡πŸ™) because my hubby is for sure Mr.BhojRaj ,(MeeraBai's original husband's name) (Bhoj means "Feast/Food" and Raj means "King" )...Makes sense ??eeeehaa..πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‹

Anyways, my hubby who is not a dessert fan, recently told me, try to make that payasam (a south Indian dessert), that brown one made with rice and Jaggery that we usually get in temples in India especially ...We usually call it Ambala Payasam/Temple Payasam. Since this Payasam needs Jaggery for the sweetness and the authentic flavor than sugar, it was quite a turn-on. Jaggery is comparatively healthy.


As I started experimenting with making this /perfecting this Payasam,I came to know that they are in fact called Sweet Pongal or Sakkarai Pongal or Chakkara Pongal (Where Sakkarai,a Tamil term, and Chakkara,a Malayalam term means Jaggery)

For me, this Pongal dish reminds me of my childhood days in North India during the eve of Makara Sankranti and Pongala functions in Kerala temples participated by women especially ....

What is Makara Sankranti /Pongal ?

Makara Sankranti is a popular Indian harvest festival celebrated in different parts of India around mid-January and also around Asia. Kerala calls it Makara Vilaku,Tamil Nadu calls it Thai Pongal, Andhra, and Karnataka - Sankranthi, Gujarat, and Rajasthan - Vasi Uttarayan, West Bengal - Pousha Sankranthi, Punjab/Haryana/Himachal Pradesh - Lohri/Maghi, Assam-Magh Bihu, Nepal-Maghe Sankrant, Thailand-Songkran, etc...Like the names, different ways of rituals/ceremonies and practices are carried out to celebrate the festivals in different places accordingly...It is usually one of the most famous Tamil festivals celebrated by Tamilians all over the world...


Significance of Makara Sankranti 

Makara Sankranti or Pongal is usually a harvest festival where farmers thank Mother nature,cattle,(Sun and rain) God for an abundant harvest and for continuous blessings likewise, celebrating with family and friends thereafter,starting a fresh ,reformed/renewed/priority-oriented, prosperous and blessed life. 

Generally, people celebrate by cleaning their homes, decorating with kolams/Rangolis/floral designs made with rice powder, making sweet dishes especially with Jaggery, sesame seeds, ghee, rice, lentil ...and praying to the almighty for peace, harmony, and prosperity, exchanging gifts, and celebrating with kiths and kins ...

Save the farmers ! SALUTE and PRAYERS!πŸ™‡πŸ™ŒπŸ’–

But for me, it is a festival to thank the FARMERS, MOTHER NATURE, CATTLES/KAMADHENU, THE DIVINE (taken for granted and exploited in this KaliYuga) and spending quality time with the near and dear ones and making memories ...

Pongal is the main dish of Makara Sankranti festival .

What is Pongal?

Pongal means "to boil over" or "overflow" .It is a ceremony to prepare a traditional dish of (a new harvest) rice with milk and jaggery/sugar and offered to the divine. It is called Pongala in Kerala.

What makes Pongala stand out all over in Kerala or the country (India) in particular/spectacular, is the way the Pongala function is celebrated in one of the largest pilgrimages and the annual huge gathering of Hindu women at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (India), where women gather in and out of the temple premises, they pray and cook together in a pot the sweet Pongal and offer the Pongala dish to the Hindu temple goddess / Bhagavathy (aka Parvati avatar, Durga-Kannaki πŸ™). 

The Attukal Pongala has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering of women in the world, featuring an estimated 2.5 million women including celebrities..Hence Attukal temple is considered to be Sabrimala for women πŸ˜ŠπŸ™#AmmeNarayanaDeviNarayanaπŸ™‡

PICS CREDIT to the owners :Google Images

Two types of famous Pongal dishes that stand out in South India (especially in Tamil Nadu, the place Pongal originated from) are Chakkara/Sakkarai Pongal,a sweet version, and Ven Pongal/Khara Pongal,a savory version.

Pongal dish is quite flavorful and delish and easy to make and one of the most famous naivedyam meaning a food offered to Hindu deity as part of a worship ritual during festivals, regular pujas in the temple and also in many South Indian homes as an offering to the divine...Divinely finger-licking for devotees as well!

What is Sweet Pongal and how is Sweet Pongal prepared at home?


Sweet Pongal is a sweet dish /dessert like a thick porridge consistency made with rice, jaggery/sugar, lentil (optional), milk(optional), and garnished with cashew nuts, raisins, etc in Ghee. Traditionally they are prepared in an earthen pot or in a pan on the gas stove like how we prepare rice,then adding the rest of the required ingredients to make a Pongal dessert...

Here is my quick and easy sweet Pongal recipe that can be prepared instantly and it tastes so authentic like the traditionally prepared sweet Pongal that you will keep on licking your fingers or the serving bowl or spoon for sure.



Rice (I used Sona Masoori) - 1 cup
Water - 4 cups
Jaggery powder - 2 cups
Salt a pinch or two

Ghee - 1/4 th - 1/2 cup
Cloves - 4-5 Nos.
Cardamom, crushed - 5 Nos
Cashewnuts a few
Raisins a few


To prepare sweet pongal/chakkara payasam/Sakarrai Payasam

  • Wash and drain the rice.Keep it aside.
  • Place the pressure cooker onto the flame.
  • Pour the ghee ,add the cloves and cardamoms and saute for a minute on low flame.
  • Add the rice and saute on a low flame.
  • Add the jaggery and saute for a minute or two. (Adjust the Jaggery as per the sweetness you prefer,but the more you add, the more flavorful the payasam will be. You can also use sugar but the taste will be different)
  • Add the water into it and stir well.
  • Add the pinch of salt to balance the sweetness. (It can be avoided)
  • Cover the lid,put on the weight (I mean pressure cooker's :D ).
  • Pressure cook on high flame for 1 whistle, medium flame 1 whistle, and on a low flame the last whistle.(Keep in mind that the cooking time for rice may vary from the types of rice used to types of pressure cooker used)
  • Put off the flame and let the pressure get released slowly.
  • Then carefully remove the weight and open the lid.
  • If there is any liquid left, let it get absorbed a bit on low flame, stirring in between. (If you prefer the payasam to be little liquid consistency,then leave it as it is (put off the flame) because once it cools down, it will still thicken up )
  • Then put it off.
  • Pour leftover ghee in a pan,add the cashewnuts and raisins and saute for a minute. Then put off the flame.
  • Pour this tempering into the sweet pongal/chakkara Payasam/Sakkarai Payasam/Nei Payasam.Give a gentle stir.
  • Let it sit for awhile. The more it sits ,the more flavorful it becomes. It also thickens up.
  • The good and dark quality of Jaggery and more the authentic ghee makes sure that the sweet Pongal is in fact finger-licking and delicious.
  • That's it my quick to make yet authentic to taste Sweet pongal/chakkara Payasam/Sakkarai Payasam/Nei Payasam is READY !!

What is Ven Pongal and how is Ven Pongal prepared at home?


Venn means white in Tamil and Pongal is the traditional savory dish made with rice, mung dal/lentil, and spices like pepper, cumin, etc, and garnished with cashew nuts, raisins tempered in ghee. Ven Pongal is also called Khara Pongal.

Like sweet Pongal, traditionally it is prepared in an earthen pot or in a pan on the gas stove like how we prepare rice ...But here is my quick and easy way to prepare Ven Pongal that tastes very authentic and simply delicious exactly like how ven Pongal is prepared traditionally.

Ven Pongal/Khara (Spicy) Pongal

Rice (Sona Masoori) 1 cup
Yellow Mung Dal  1/2 cup
Cumin seeds 1 Tbsp
Pepper seeds 1 Tbsp
Salt to taste
Water 4 Cups

For tempering:

Ghee 1/4th cup - 1/2 cup
Cashew nuts as you wish
Raisins as you wish
Curry leaves a few (optional)
Dry red chillies 1 or 2 (optional)


To prepare Ven Pongal at home :
  • Wash and drain the rice and dal separately and keep them aside for 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Place the pressure cooker onto the gas on a low flame.
  • Add 1/4 th cup of Ghee.
  • Add 1/2 Tbsp of cumin seeds and pepper seeds and saute for a minute on low flame.
  • Then add the rice and dal and keep on sauteing them for a minute or two on low flame, making sure they don't get burnt.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Add the water and stir well.
  • Cover with the lid and the weight.
  • Pressure cook everything on high flame for 1 whistle, on a medium flame for 1-2 whistles and on low flame for 1 more whistle or until the rice and dal gets cooked.(It will depend upon the rice and the pressure cooker used)
  • Put off the flame and let the pressure get released by itself.
  • Then carefully remove the weight and the lid.
  • Meanwhile,heat ghee in a pan on low flame.
  • Add remaining cumin seeds and pepper seeds (adjust as per your preference as some people don't like to bite onto peppers a lot )
  • Add the red chili and curry leaves.
  • Add the cashewnuts and raisins and saute everything well for a minute or two.
  • Put off the flame.
  • Pour this into the cooked rice-dal mixture and gently stir . The more ghee is added, the more flavorful it will be. So, use as per your preference.
  • That's it quick and easy to make, authentic to taste Ven Pongal is READY! Serve it hot as it is or with hot sambar ..YUM!!!!



During my childhood days in North India, Bokaro, Jharkhand, it used to be quite chilly during winter especially around December, which is not at all my favorite season in any way 😰. However, what made this chilly season pure joy was the eve of Makara Sankranthi and the celebration of Makara Vilakku in one of the famous temples, the Ayyappa temple in Bokaro.

Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa (Pic credit : Google images to respective owners..THX!)

Usually, we would go to the temple once in a while during the evening time to attend the deep Aradhana /the evening puja. But during Makara Sankranthi, almost all Malayalees and other South Indians and everyone who had a devotion towards Lord Ayyappa would spend the entire day in the temple itself ...I used to look forward to that joyful day - wearing my favorite dress and the new sweater and heading to the temple with my parents where almost all my Malayalee friends would also come over ...πŸ’ƒ


It was a special feeling to visit the temple in the morning, the temple decorated all over like a beautiful divine bride and groom into one, the strings of garlands of yellow and orange flower especially Marigolds hanging all over the temple, the fragrance of agarbatti/incense stick swaying in and out,far and wide ,the pious sound of temple bell that can diffuse any negativity all around and far, the excited devotees visiting the temple one by one with a long queue of scooters, motorcycles, cars outside the temple premises....It is a dreamy pure day of bliss to witness and experience...

We all, at home ,getting ready and hopping onto our Vijay scooter, Acha driving,amma and bro (till he was a teen) at the back of the scooter and me standing in front, holding strong onto the scooter's steer/handle like the little guard πŸ˜„, enjoying every twist and turns heart full of joy...

(Here is the demo /video to make sweet Pongal and Ven Pongal quick and easy my way and making a Pongal Platter as well..on a snowy day...wearing one of my saree from my wedding day....as it is our wedding Anniversary...😊

AND I felt superpower around the world giving a blow to all the culprits indirectly and supporting me ..our Namaste and kisses from my little one to them!.. Thanks to the divine for being there for me !! 

The way you came to my rescue, similarly, when you will be in trouble and for the right cause,you will be protected by the divine as well !! MARK MY WORD !πŸ™‡

The moment we enter the temple, I would jump with joy to see my friends too, enjoying the delicately decorated temple premises, climbing the stairs (pathinettam padi/18 Nos. of stairs) into the temple, the holy sound of the temple bells ringing, the holy aroma of incense sticks and sambaranis,women gathering in groups, chit-chatting with joy and making malas/garlands for God, devotees offering prayers one by one, Priest performing pujas and preparing for the main ceremony for the evening, volunteers preparing lunch, children running around the temple up and below or playing in a corner, a perfect place for all family friends to have a memorable get together ...

Pic credit : Google Images .Thx!-- To our glorious golden simple childhood days 

Next to the temple stood my first school, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, and the newly build Ayyappa school, filled with nostalgia.

I would look forward to playing with my friends avoiding all my Malayalee teachers at any cost and any interaction with my parentsπŸ˜ƒπŸ™ˆ #ThatHolyCowMoment....Blushing at all my crushes,(my classmates have no idea but I had a crush (healthy) on every boy πŸ™ŠπŸ˜„πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‰ because they all were innocent, cool, and friendly and I can't imagine my school days without every one of them for making it memorable)...#Hi10ToMyClassmatesπŸ‘«

The first and foremost highlight of the festival celebration would be the lunch - the sadya,the traditional Kerala feast,a mishmash of rice, and numerous finger-licking curries served on fresh Banana leaves....That day I ate all the vegetables for sure, they tasted divinely delicious with family, friends, and strangers around...all happy faces...😊

Pic credit : Google images

Then we (myself and my parents ) would take a short break and visit a nearby family friend across the temple to take some rest and get ready for a special night at the temple thereafter...

In the evening ,we all would get fresh and wear another set of new traditional dresses and head to the temple to participate in the thaalapoli procession,a ritual ,where girls and women would carry a plate with coconut, flowers, and lamp and stand in a queue in the temple premises to celebrate the deity, Lord Ayyappa with prayers,chenda melam/a special kind of drum beats carried out by experts especially during auspicious occasions like this, the priests would carry the deity around the temple and once every devotee have a darshanam (have a peek of divine and his/her default blessings) , the deity is carried like a baby and placed with utter devotion into the main temple , followed by prayers, and the final darshanam once again after the main puja with a pious and sweet ending when the priests would distribute the chakkara pongal /sweet Pongal/Nei Payasam to all devotees..

The treasure is inside...

There is no word to describe how heavenly that payasam/dessert tasted and the leftover payasam would be left in a super-large urulis/heavy brass utensils for the devotees to take back some Prasadam with vadas ,malars etc if they wish (And everyone did!).....

So, for me, the mere mention of chakkara pongal /Nei Payasam reminds me of those memorable days/nights spent at Bokaro Ayyappa temple during Makara Sankranthi .....

In Kerala also ,we get similar prasadams in temples ...


After coming to the US,I got the first taste of Ven Pongal in temples over here and it is also so yummy, healthy, and filling...Finally kinda mastered my version of ven Pongal too....Tastes authentic made instantly...

Honey P is also happy it seems. (Isi khushi mein)So, by all powers vested in me, his new name is Honey Pongala !! ...I am sweet and he is the salt version πŸ˜‰πŸ™Š...(Shhh...secret between me and you )...After all, he gave me the idea to overflow...πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜‰πŸ˜

Also, I believe rice is a staple in most of the countries around the world ...So, dedicating this post to "Unity in diversity and overall prosperity !" and most importantly to all the unseen and unsung heroes - the hardworking farmers especially from India and around the world for being the ultimate source to bring the rice, etc to our plate. 

When we already have rumors about the invention of plastic rice and the scary repercussions, I would pray to the divine that may every farmer's hard work and hardships may never go unnoticed. May every farmer be celebrated like a world citizen and have a decent livelihood, not only feeding the nation but also may be able to feed their family, themselves as well. 

May their demands be heard and taken care of by the higher power vested in people we trust around the globe! 


Reminds me of my all-time favorite movie "Swades" , where my most fav. actor,SRK sir (Mohan in the movie) said," Main nahi manta hamara desh duniya ka sabse mahaan desh hai. Lekin yeh zaroor manta hoon ki hum mein kabliyat hai, taqat hai, apne desh ko mahaan banane ki .."Jai Hind !πŸ™ŒπŸ™

I WISH..I had the capability and money to do something like he did in the movie and make a huge difference in people who are unseen and unsung heroes for real....like farmers/villagers..

After all, like Gandhi ji said,"The soul of India lives in its villages and agriculture is the soul of our Indian economy and farmers are our Annadaata "...With the increasing number of farmers committing suicide frequently ,it hurts to even imagine his state of mind and life that leads to such a heartbreaking decision, hard to hear and digest helplessly...destroying his family indirectly as well....

Make the most of this human birth even if it is a small contribution for a right cause....

They say,"Where there is a will, there is a way!"..Hopefully, one day, maybe divine will show me a way and means to make a huge difference in such unseen and unsung heroes as well....Fingers crossed !! Amen to that!

For now,all I can do to comfort my grieving heart is to pray to the divine and say ,"Aaaal is well" ...The justice will be served eventually....A change takes time...till then, with a deep sigh, I will try to comfort myself by venting here and there and donating now and then when possible...

Love and light,
Take care πŸ’