Pongal is an integral part of South Indian religious ritual. This auspicious dish is cooked in an earthen pot with the first crops of the year during the Makar Sankranthi festival by South Indian farmers and in Hindu households. It is one of the most popular puja “Prasadams” in all the big South Indian temples. Pongal has two versions – Khara Pongal and Shakar Pongal.
“Khara” is the salty one and the essence of this recipe lies in its ginger, black pepper and ghee seasoning. One can feel the magic of this spice combination on a chilly morning or while suffering from a bad hangover. It’s a great fixer for a bad mood too. One can keep adding on goodies such as cashew nuts, raisins, cumin seeds, curry leaves to their Pongal to create a signature taste. Pongal tastes the best if it is cooked with jeera rice or “Govind-bhog” rice (which means food for God Krishna – this specialty of rice grains are used in Bengal for puja prasadams as well). Two proportions of good quality moong dal and one portion of aromatic rice is all that you need to make it an uplifting wholesome breakfast.
Haleem is an amazing dish which becomes more popular than usual during Ramadan. The history of Haleem dates back to 10th century. Hyderabad’s Nizam army got introduced to this dish at a later date. Since then the dish has evolved to suit the locally available ingredients and herbs. Essentially Haleem is a thick porridge made over 2-10 hours, depending on how much time you can spend on it. Its core ingredients are lentils, lamb or mutton, coarse grains of wheat and some herbs of your choice. The best time for eating protein rich Haleem (if you are not a Muslim who is breaking fast during the Ramadan month) is the early evening after a hard day of work.
These two dishes are too delicious to be missed. You do not have to wait for the religious times of the year to sample these though it is easier to get your hands on them then. Put them on your foodie bucket list and definitely try them out next time you go out.