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My Pongal memories: Seven top Chefs share their stories

  • ​​By Madhulika Dash

    So how much do we know about Pongal – easily one of India’s oldest harvest festivals? 

    For most part of it, our correlation with Pongal comes from the delicious dish by the same name: pongal, a rich, delicious, velvety kheer-like sweet dish made of milk and fragrant rice, typical to the region. 

    But what is it like for those for whom celebrating Pongal that begins with the ritual of Bhogi Mantalu, in honour of the rain god Lord Indra for a good monsoon, and ends with Kaanum Pongal, really mean? 

    Here, we get chefs to decode what the festival meant to them – and the dishes that makes Pongal, special.

    Chef Arun Kumar TR, owner Zeaside.

    Lessons from Pongal: The understanding of cuisine, especially seasonal delicacies 

    My earlier memories of Pongal, living in a diverse, cosmopolitan public sector colony in Bangalore was of the ‘goodies’ that one got to eat on those four days. There was always a new food offering for each day, culminating on the final day when my favourite was served, the Sarkarrai Pongal! 

    I still yearn for that taste every year when the festival arrives. 

    It was much later in life that I discovered the true delicacy of the savoury Pongal called ‘Ven Pongal” and other traditional accompaniment like “Kathrrikay/Brinjal Gothsu” – and with it the culinary wisdom that not only made food seasonal, tasteful but healthy too.