Make Ahead

Savory 'Venn Pongal' (South Indian Style Rice & Mung Bean Risotto)

January 10, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 4 to 5 servings
Author Notes

Pongal is the turkey equivalent of the Tamil harvest thanksgiving Festival of Sankranti. The festival occurs around mid-January, celebrating the winter harvest in India and also commemorates the journey of the northward journey of the sun, heralding the advent of spring.
Freshly harvested rice is cooked along with mung dal & milk in a pot decorated with turmeric leaves and allowed to boil over, signifying the abundance of prosperity for the year to come.
There are two versions. The traditional, sweet variety is cooked with milk and jaggery (unrefined sugar combined with the molasses) and spiced with cardamom & saffron.
The savory version is spiced with a seasoning of cumin & cracked peppercorn.
The finishing touch is always a generous drizzle of melted, homemade ghee. The 'venn' in the dishes name comes from the tamil word for butter (vennai). —Panfusine

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Panfusine is a mom and food blogger living in New Jersey.
WHAT: A bowl of South Indian-spiced goodness.
HOW: Sauté your spices and aromatics; add mung dal and cook until brown and nutty; add rice and water; let simmer until creamy. Top with ghee.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The texture here is one that's comforting and familiar -- think a hearty porridge or risotto -- but the spices are exciting, new. We love that this is a traditional celebration dish, but we're just as quick to make it for a soothing weeknight dinner. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked peppercorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 6 to 8 curry leaves, torn
  • 1 whole green serrano chile split in 1/2 lengthwise (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons broken cashew pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Pongal
  • 1/2 cup split dehusked mung dal
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • Plenty of melted butter/ghee to finish
  1. Rinse the rice and mung dal separately until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a 5-quart Dutch oven pan, heat the ghee and allow it to shimmer. Add the cumin and cracked pepper. When the cumin seeds 'split,' add the ginger, curry, the single split chile and the cashews. You may add the asafetida at this time if you're using it.
  3. Once the cashews begin to turn brown, add the mung dal and sauté till the residual water evaporates and the dal just begins to emit a nutty aroma. At this point add the rice, turmeric, and 4 cups of the water.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to its lowest setting, cover with a lid and allow the mixture to cook until the rice is completely soft (the consistency of a risotto). Feel free to mash the mix up with the back of a spoon. Add salt and and taste for seasoning. Add the extra half cup of water, cover again with the lid, and allow the mixture to cook for about 10 minutes more. Find & discard the cooked up chile in the mix. You do NOT want it sneaking up into anybody's mouth.
  5. Ladle the risotto into bowls and drizzle generously with the melted ghee as per your taste. Serve with toasted paapad, achar, and a side of yogurt.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan
    Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan
  • hardlikearmour
  • Cinnamin
  • ChefJune
A biomedical engineer/ neuroscientist by training, currently a mommy blogger on a quest for all things food - Indian Palate, Global perspective!

17 Reviews

AntoniaJames February 3, 2021
Delicious! The curry leaves and cashews are non-negotiable. Will make again. ;o)
AntoniaJames February 1, 2021
To my surprise and great delight, the (best!) Indian grocery in Boulder County - Krishna Grocery in Lafayette - had fresh curry leaves the last time I was there. (It's far away, so going there is always a treat.) I grabbed 3 lovely branches, having had this on my running must-try list for a few months. So looking forward to trying it. ;o)
Shailaja V. November 29, 2016
Just the picture makes me drool. Any suggestions for making this vegan? What's a good substitute for ghee?
Panfusine November 29, 2016
I would probably try Cashew butter in lieu of ghee.
carswell January 18, 2020
I would think coconut oil would be a better substitute for ghee than cashew butter - you need to fry the spices.
Panfusine January 18, 2020
Anna B. November 12, 2014
This looks great! Do you also have a suggested recipe source for the sweet version?
hardlikearmour April 3, 2014
This sounds like a bowl of perfect, yummy, comfort! Congratulations!!
Panfusine April 3, 2014
Thanks HLA!
Cinnamin April 2, 2014
Love that food52 features South Indian cuisine as well! A welcome change from aloo-gobi ad chicken tikka masala.
Panfusine April 3, 2014
Thanks Cinnamin!
ChefJune April 2, 2014
Oh this sounds wonderful. I love this kind of dinner. Congratulations on the WC win.
Panfusine April 3, 2014
Thanks ChefJune & congratulations on your win For the Best Mustard contest!
creamtea April 2, 2014
Congratulations on the wildcard win, Panfusine! Will try.
Panfusine April 3, 2014
Thanks Creamtea!
Veganosity April 2, 2014
This looks so delicious! Spices are so important to use in every dish. At Veganosity we have this delicious Vegan Moroccan Stew ( that has the perfect blend of spices.
Devangi R. February 13, 2014
Thank you for the recipe Panfusine. I love Pongal. I wanted to get a recipe, though its available widely. It is a comfort dish to me specially days like these; Snow days!