Once January, most of us start the prep for Pongal or Makar sankranthi.The prep work for Pongal starts differently in different houses. Mine starts with shining the pot. It is time for that vengala panai (bronze pot to come out of hiding and shine. Next comes the search for the right colour of jaggery or sharkarai and so on. Without much thought needed these are the prep for the upcoming Pongal festival. The show-stopper dish of the season is the sharkarai pongal. Sharing my treasured recipe with you for this season.
What is sharkarai pongal?
Prepared for festive occasions, sharkarai pongal or sharkara pongal is a sweet dish resembling a soft-cooked pudding. This is a gluten-free dish as it utilises rice and green gram as the main ingredients. This is sweetened with jaggery or unrefined sugarcane solids and made well-rounded with ample ghee or clarified butter. Aromatics like saffron, cardamom or nutmeg are used.
On what occasions do we make sweet pongal?
Sweet pongal is a must-do if you plan to celebrate the Pongal festival. However, the dish is made during Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri and Ugadi too. We used to get sharkara pongal for our birthdays as the cake was not a norm.
What rice is suited for sharkarai pongal?
Short-grain raw rice is preferred to make this sweet Pongal. However, not glutinous rice. Commonly, ponni raw rice, Sona masoori, Poongar, Jeeraka sambha or Srilankan raw red rice are good to make sharkarai pongal. The newer rice cooks softer than the aged varieties. If you are choosing coloured rice for the sweet pongal, the end colour will be slightly darker say use black rice or red rice.
Ingredients for sharkara pongal
Aromatics- cardamom and nutmeg
Let’s make sweet pongal
Roasting the moong dal: the moong dal is lightly roasted on a dry pan or in saute mode in the instant pot.
Cook the rice and dal: the first step of making the sweet pongal is cooking the rice and moong dal together. This needs to be soft-cooked. After washing and draining the rice and dal mix, add this into a pot with boiling water or set it to pressure cook. Add excess water so that the water is well absorbed and the pongal tasty. Once the pressure cooking is done, let the pressure release naturally. Then fluff up and mash the rice dal mix a bit.
Melt the jaggery: Jaggery is the sweetener used in this pongal. However, since the jaggery is not purified, it will have some impurities that can be removed by melting and straining. Soak the jaggery in water and as it melts, bring the syrup to a boil. This will float the scum in the jaggery and also sink the sand particles. Once boiled, Scoop out the scum that floats and then sieve with a metal fine sieve to remove the sand. Unlike in aval pori, you do not have to thicken the jaggery syrup so I use 1:1 measure of water to jaggery. Strain this liquid and set aside.
Making the sweet pongal: once the rice dal mix is cooked and the pressure naturally released, mix the hot soft rice well and strain in the jaggery syrup. mix well and set on slow cook to bring to a slow boil. Keep stirring, don’t miss as it will catch the bottom quickly.
Adding the aromatics: Add crushed cardamom and a small pinch of camphor to the bubbling mix. Stir well, remove from heat and keep covered.
Tempering the pongal: Add ghee to a small pan and some crushed cashews and raisins. Roast them in the ghee till the raisins plump. Pour this mix with the ghee into the sharkarai pongal that is ready. Mix well and the Pongal is ready to be served.
Serving the sharkara pongal
Sharkara pongal served in a donnai or banana leaf evokes the best of temple feel. As a dessert the recipe needs nothing more to be added to it. For the festival times, venpongal is made as the savoury food and sweet pongal is served as the dessert. You can serve sweet pongal on a South Indian thali instead of payasam or for a banana leaf sadhya.
- instant pot
For the pongal base
- 1/4 cup Raw rice
- 1/4 cup moong sal
for jaggery syrup
- 1.5 cup jaggery
- 2 cups water
garnishes for the pongal
- 1 tbsp cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 small pinch edible camphor
- Soak the jaggery in water
- Wash the rice and dal mix.
- Pressure cook the mix with extra water for a soft mashable consistency.
- Once the pressure releases, Mash and set aside the rice.
- The jaggery would now have dissolved.
- Bring this to a boil and remove the bubbles that float on top.
- Sieve the liquid and set aside.
- Add the jaggery syrup to the cooked rice mix and mix well.
- Slow cook the mix till it thickens.
- Add the cardamom powder and camphor and mix well.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a separate pan, add ghee and saute the cashew nuts and raisins till they are plump.
- Pour this mix with the ghee on the pongal.
- Mix well and the sharkarai pongal is ready.
Other sweet pongals
Sharkarai pongal or sweet pongal is a delightful traditional recipe that you should try at least once. This rustic sweet dessert is an emotion that you cannot shake off once you have tried it. If you are making it with our recipe, do tag us and let us know. We will be happy to join in a celebration.
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See you at the next post.