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Pongal recipes are prepared for the occasion when Indian farmers in the state of Tamilnadu celebrate the harvest festival ‘Pongal’. This festival is celebrated to mark the end of winters. Pongal also mark the beginning of the movement of sun towards the north direction from the south direction. Pongal recipes include various traditional south Indian dishes that are popularly known as ‘pongal dishes’. Pongal food is mainly cooked to convey regards to God as well as to say thanks to God for prosperity.

Traditional Pongal Dishes and Food Menu

Traditional pongal recipes include rice, milk and jaggery. One of the most popular pongal dishes is also named as ‘pongal’. It is made by boiling the milk with rice from the first harvested crop. Jaggery is added to provide sweetness to the dish. In some regions, ‘moong dal’ is also added to the ‘pongal’. The garnishing of the dish is done with fried raisins and cashew nuts. Traditionally, pongal dishes are cooked in new earthen pots and it is customary to cook at the place where worshipping of god is to be performed. Sun god is worshipped at the pongal festival and pongal recipes are offered to the god as a feast or ‘bhog’. First harvest of vegetables, banana, sugarcane and lentils are also offered to the god as a part of worship. There are two varieties of pongal that are made at the festival. One is ‘ven pongal’, the salty variety and another is ‘sarkkarai pongal’ that is the sweet variety. Both the dishes are prepared at the second day of the festival. Along with sweet pongal dishes, some of the traditional savory Tamil recipes are also included in pongal food menu. Payasam, murukku, idli and dosa are some of the main pongal recipes that are included in pongal food.

Significance of Pongal Food

The pongal dishes are mainly cooked in an open earthen pot so that milk and rice boils and spills over. Spilling of milk has the significance that it provides prosperity and abundance of wealth in the household. The process of spilling of milk is considered very auspicious among the family members. While cooking pongal recipes, a fresh piece of turmeric in cloth is tied on the round neck of the earthen pot. Almost all the ingredients used in preparing pongal food have their own significance. Sweet rice cooked with milk signifies prosperity while sugarcane is the symbol of happiness. Turmeric is also believed to bring good things to the household. The traditional pongal recipes are offered to god and after that the whole family eats the ritual meal and thanks the Sun god for providing the light and food to their crops.

Modern Pongal Recipes and their Variations

Though pongal is a very important traditional occasion modernism has changed the entire scenario. In traditional Tamil families, the rituals and customs are still the same but most of the modern families have changed their way of celebrating the festival. Pongal dishes are still cooked with rice and milk but in certain households, the way of cooking pongal food at the place of worship has changed. Now pongal recipes are prepared in kitchen and various other ingredients are used to give variation to the old pongal dishes. Modern pongal food menu includes various types of pongal dishes such as carrot pongal, oat pongal and vermicelli pongal. Apart from the pongal dishes offered to god, some other recipes are also included in modern pongal food. The main ingredients that are used in making modern pongal dishes are lentils, peanuts, sabudana and rice flour.

Customary Way of Serving Pongal Food

Pongal Food is mainly cooked by the family members together. Traditionally, all the family members get up early in the morning and clean the house. A special place of worship is decorated with banana leaves and other auspicious things. Food is cooked in open earthen pots so that while boiling, the content of the pot spills over. The family’s eldest member cooks the pongal dishes with the help of other family members. While cooking pongal food, when milk spills over, the entire family enchants ‘Pongalo pongal’ and that is considered very auspicious. After worshipping god, all the pongal dishes are offered to God as a thanksgiving ceremony. In the end, all the family members and friends gather to eat the pongal food. They also exchange pongal greetings and gifts as a gesture to show their happiness.