Pongal is in a genre of rice porridge made in parts of South India, often with some lentils added. Usually eaten at breakfast, it’s a savoury porridge. Though I’ve always enjoyed it when I’ve had it, it’s not something I’ve been very drawn to in the past and in recent years I’ve been trying to limit my white rice intake in order to try to make a dent in my high triglyceride levels. Related concerns have also had me trying to increase my consumption of oats. But every time I try to make a habit of eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning I run out of steam in about a week. I’ve tried counter-programming with oats upma (upma with roasted oats in place of sooji/rava) but for whatever reason that never feels like breakfast food to me. However, about 10 days ago when I posted a picture of my latest iteration of oats upma on Facebook a friend recommended I try making oats pongal as well. She gave me her basic recipe which I tinkered with a little bit and now present here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually look forward to eating this every morning.
Her recipe is itself adapted from a rice pongal recipe in the cookbook, Dakshin. My recipe is in no way an improvement on hers, which you should try as is; it is only a more savoury version with a few additions and one substitution. Both her recipe and my variation deploy an old-school whistling Indian pressure cooker but if you have one of those Instant Pot things you can probably adapt it easily; or you can make it on the stovetop as you would for regular oatmeal.
Ingredients (to make four servings)
For the porridge
- 1 cup quick cooking oats (I buy the mega bags from Costco)
- 3 tblspns split moong dal
- 5 cups water
For the tempering
- 1/2 tspn black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tspn hulled and split urad dal
- 1 large dried red chilly
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 3 tblspns raw peanuts (sans peel)
- 1/2 tspn fresh ginger, grated
- A pinch of hing
- 1/2 tspn cumin seeds and 1/2 tspn black peppercorns powdered coarsely in a mortar and pestle
- 1 tspn ghee (or oil of choice)
- Dry roast the unwashed moong dal over medium heat for a few minutes till you get a warm nutty aroma—the dal should not darken.
- Now rinse the dal and add the oatmeal and water to the pressure cooker (or sauce pan) and cook till it becomes a thick but still easily pourable porridge. I go four whistles in my old Prestige pressure cooker. If the oats become too thick add some more water and simmer it while preparing the tempering.
- While the porridge is getting done (or if you’re using an old-school pressure cooker, while the pressure is releasing), make the tempering as follows:
- Heat the ghee over medium heat and and add the mustard seeds, urad dal and the dried red chilly.
- As soon as the mustard seeds start popping add the curry leaves, the hing, the ginger, the peanuts and the salt. Stir for a minute or two till the peanuts begin to brown.
- Add the coarsely powdered cumin and black pepper. Stir it all together to mix, add to the porridge and stir it thoroughly.
- Adjust salt and eat.
- Just as my friend adapted the Dakshin recipe and I made slight tweaks to her adaption, you can play with this as you like. Increase the cumin and pepper maybe (I wouldn’t suggest decreasing). Maybe add some channa dal along with or in place of some of the urad dal. Etc. etc.
- Pongal generally calls for cashews, as does my friend’s recipe. As my kids are allergic to cashews, I tend to by reflex replace cashews with peanuts in my cooking as I have here.
- My additions here are the mustard seeds, urad dal and the red chilly. I also use more curry leaves than her recipe calls for.
- You can also add a lot more of the dal.
- I make four servings at a time, on the second, third and fourth day adding some boiling water before heating up a bowl in the microwave.