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Pongol: Festive Sweet Rice

The South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu produce vanilla along with many other products. Their major harvest festival is in January, a time when people traditionally worshipped the gods of weather, most significantly, the sun. Pongal means “overflow” in Tamil, celebrating abundance. May your January – and your harvest if you are farmers – be abundant!


Pongol: Festive Sweet Rice



2 cups milk

2 cups water

1 Rain’s Choice Vanilla Bean, cut into pieces

1 cup rice (Basmati if it’s available)

1/2 cup hulled mung beans (substitute yellow or red lentils if necessary)

1 cup sugar (jaggery if you can find it)

1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract (or more if not using a vanilla bean)

1/2 cup ghee (unsalted butter can be substituted)

1 cup fresh grated coconut (1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut can be substituted)

1520 cashews, chopped

23 tablespoons raisins

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 cardamom pods, ground


Toast mung beans or lentils over a low heat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Mix with rice and wash thoroughly.

Put milk, water, and vanilla bean pieces in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Add rice and mung beans and cook, stirring until it’s a soft mass and liquid is fully absorbed. Add sugar and cook over low heat until dissolved. Add 4 teaspoons ghee or butter and vanilla extract and stir until the mixture has a sticky consistency. Remove vanilla bean if one is used.

Heat remaining ghee or butter in a heavy frying pan and lightly toast coconut, cashews and raisins for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle this mixture over pongal along with nutmeg and cardamom and serve warm.


Serves 6

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