Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A delicious Sankranthi vegan brunch

Sankranthi (aka Pongal) is an important Hindu festival which marks the beginning of the Sun's 'climb' into the Northern Hemisphere. In South India, we also celebrate Sankranthi as the beginning of the harvest season. Like most other Hindu festivals, we celebrate this one by having a bath (hair wash too) and then cooking the customary sweet and savory dishes meant for the festival. Then we place the food in front of the holy altar carrying pictures and idols of various Gods and Goddesses and light two oil lamps. We pray, offer thanks and request blessings. Then we offer the food to the Gods who get to 'taste' everything first (we don't taste them while cooking) and then... we dig right in! :)

In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh States, women also exchange Vayanas with the relatives or neighbors. These contain various items representing a good harvest like Sugarcane, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Peanuts, Elachikai (a kind of sour berry) and also other traditional things like Turmeric Sticks, Kumkum Powder (the red dot we put on our forehead), Coconut, Fruits, Beetle Leaves and Beetle Nuts.

In the South the main traditional delicacy for the Sankranthi breakfast is Pongal. Two types of Pongal to be precise - the Sweet Pongal and the Savory Pongal. The main ingredients in these are rice and split mung beans (yep, my favorite moong dal :)). Today, along with the Pongals, we also made Vadas (deep fried black gram fritters) and a Tamarind Gojju (sauce) to have on the side with the Savory Pongal. The Vadas are normally doughnut shaped but we weren't able to shape them so instead we dropped little spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. So what came out was something which could be termed Vada Holes (like doughnut holes) :D

Sankranthi or not these are delicious, easy to prepare dishes. If you try these out, please do leave a comment here on how they turned out.


Vegan Savory Pongal

1 C Moong Dal
1 C Rice
8 C Water (more if required)
2 t Olive Oil
1/4 t Turmeric

For the seasoning:

3 T any Vegetable Oil
1/2 t Mustard Seeds
1/2 t Cumin Seeds
1/4 t Asafoteida Powder
1/2 t Whole Black Pepper
10-12 Curry Leaves
1 t Ginger chopped into tiny pieces
Sea Salt

Lightly toast the moong dal in a dry pan for a few minutes, stirring continuously till it's slightly deepened in color.

Put the rice, moong dal, turmeric, olive oil and water with a pinch of sea salt in a pressure cooker and cook for 6 whistles. If you don't have a pressure cooker then you can cook them in a large pot on the stovetop on medium flame for about 45 mins till the dal is well cooked and soft, in which case it needs to be monitored and stirred occasionally.

In a small pan, heat the vegetable oil for about half a minute. Add the mustard and let it crackle, then add the cumin, asafoteida powder, whole black pepper, curry leaves and the ginger and stir for a few seconds and switch off the flame.

Add sea salt and the seasoning to the cooked rice/dal mixture and mix.

Serve hot.


Vegan Sweet Pongal

1/2 C Moong Dal
1/2 C Rice
1/4 C Channa Dal (Split Gram)
2 C Water
2 C Soymilk or Almond Milk
2 T Olive Oil

Lightly toast the moong and channa dals in a dry pan for a few minutes, stirring continuously till they have slightly deepened in color.

Cook all the above ingredients in a pressure cooker or a large pan till the rice is cooked well and the dals have become soft.

Stir in:

1 1/2 C Jaggery or Molasses
1/4 t Cardamom Powder
Handful of toasted Cashew nut pieces and Raisins.
1/2 to 1 C water

Bring to boil while stirring continuously and simmer for a few minutes.

Serve hot or cold.


Tamarind Gojju - as a side for the Savory Pongal

1 T any Vegetable Oil
1/4 t Mustard Seeds
1/4 t Cumin Seeds
Pinch Asafoteida Powder
1/4 t Whole Black Pepper
5-6 Curry Leaves
2 Red Chillies

Heat the oil in a small pan for about half a minute and add the mustard seeds (they should crackle immediately). Add the rest of the seasoning ingredients in the order given.

Take it off the flame. Then quickly mix in:

1/2 C Water
1/2 t Tamarind Paste
Sea Salt (to taste)

Put it back on the stove and bring to boil. Reduce the flame a simmer for a few minutes.

Note: If you desire a slightly thicker sauce then mix 1/2 t Gram Flour with a few spoons of water and make a liquidy paste. Stir in the paste into the Gojju while it's still simmering and keep stirring for a few minutes till the sauce has slightly thickened.


Oh will you LOOK at the time! It's 11:30 pm and I need to get to bed. So I'll post the recipe for the Vada Holes some other time. Until then... enjoy the Pongal! :)

love and light,
Susmitha :)


  1. The food looks SO good, and I'm glad to know more about the festival - it sounds like something that's truly worth celebrating. Both pongal recipes sound so good (I love moong dal too!) although I had to Google "curry leaves" to find out what they were - they sound wonderful.

  2. We use at least a few Curry Leaves in almost all of our cooking, mainly in the seasoning. They are a very rich source of iron. If you have an Indian market close to you, I'm sure you'll be able to procure some fresh ones.

  3. This all looks yummy Susmi. Please invite me next Sankranti!