Thai Pongal in USA

I am happy to introduce the first guest writer in my blog, my husband Mithun.

Pongal 2

Traditional Pongal in USA

By Mithun.R

Pongal, the quintessential Tamil function was always celebrated with lot of fervor and exhilaration by our families. To keep the tradition flowing to the next generation, we try and celebrate the same as close to how it is celebrated back home even though we are no longer in Tamil Nadu but 10000 miles away in U.S.A.

Pongal 10

Pongal 8

Pongal 9

The festivities start the day before when we spend all evening drawing and coloring Rangoli in the front and back of the home braving the winter weather. The only fresh harvest we get for the harvest festival in the winter months is the sugarcane we grow in our backyard.

Pongal 6

Pongal 3

We get up early before sunrise, take a traditional oil head bath and wear new clothes. We lay all the fresh vegetables and fruits along with sugarcane, turmeric and other Pongal ingredients outside for Sun God. At the first sight of the rising sun, we offer prayers and fire the logs to start Pongal. Although getting a fire going on an icy morning with wooden logs in a makeshift stove with a frigid crosswinds is an arduous task, we cherish doing it as we are elated to be celebrating Pongal like our parents and million others in Tamil Nadu.

Pongal 4

With a modern twist, we share the entire pongal making process with the jubilant folks back home in Chennai thanks to Skype. We yell “Pongalo Pongal” at the top of our voice when we finally get the Pongal to boil over. We make both Sarkarai Pongal and Venn Pongal along with Sambar and Avial. Grandmother always said, the more variety of vegetables you add, the better your Sambar will taste. So we cut and chop  brinjal, plantain, pumpkin, radish, raw mango, carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, drumstick and many root vegetables and that makes the special Pongal Sambar and Avial decadent. The lady of the house puts in the labor of love and gets all the Pongal special dishes done. After that, we offer the food and dessert to God and give our thanks for the harvest festival. We enjoy the sumptuous Pongal feast the traditional way by sitting on the floor and eating it from banana leaf.

Pongal 1

Our 5 year old daughter is now a seasoned veteran and she relishes the way we celebrate Pongal and will continue this Tamil tradition even after she grows up. No matter how far we are, home is where the heart is. Happy Pongal!

Sweet Pongal / Sakarai Pongal

Uma's Kitchen

Sweet Pongal

Here is the recipe for sweet pongal / Sakarai pongal. Pongal is prepared in all Tamil peoples home to denote the beginning of the Tamil month Thai. Here is my mom’s recipe.

The pongal is left to spill out of the pot as it cooks. If you do not want the pongal to boil over as it cooks, add a few drops of oil to the rice and dal as it cooks.

I always use dark brown jaggery. It gives a dark colour and tastes better than the light brown jaggery.

In the US, dark brown jaggery is packaged as South Indian Jaggery.


  • Water – 6 cups
  • Raw Sona Masoori Rice / Pacha Arisi – 2/3 cup
  • Yellow moong dal / Pacha Parippu – 1/3 cup
  • Dark brown Powdered Jaggery – 1 cup +1/2 cup (
  • Ghee – 3 + 1/2 tbsps
  • Whole Cashews – 12, broken
  • Dried Raisins…

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Ven Pongal

Uma's Kitchen

Ven Pongal

I love Ven pongal. Can be had with sambar and chutney. But the best side dish for ven pongal is Kathirikkai Kosthu. This recipe is my mom’s version of Ven pongal.Ven pongal is simple to prepare. It gets its taste from the seasoning.


  • Sona Masoori / Pacha Arisi – 2 cups
  • Yellow moong dal / pacha parippu – 1 cup
  • Water – 10 cups
  • Ghee – 4 tbsps
  • Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp
  • Whole black pepper – 15
  • Curry leaves – 6
  • Green Chilli – 1 or 2, make a cut in it
  • Minced ginger pieces – 2 tsps
  • Cashews – 6, broken into small pieces
  • Salt – to taste


  • Wash the rice and dal and let it soak in water.
  • Boil 10 cups of water in a heavy bottom vessel.
  • Add the soaked rice and dal to the water and let it cook.
  • Keep an eye…

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Uma's Kitchen


Avial is a side dish that we make at home during Pongal along with mixed vegetable sambar. My chithi shared this recipe with me. I don’t follow the measurements when I make avial. It is always by tasting and guessing that I add the ingredients. Pongal avaial is more special because we go wild with the vegetables that goes into the avial. We add different root vegetables that gives it more flavor.Raw mango pieces can also be added. Adjust the quantity of curd added if you are using raw mango to make avial.
I have used vegetables like carrot, beans, peas, cauliflower, butternut squash, plantain, potatoes and drumstick.


  • Olive oil/ Coconut oil – 2 tbsps
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 10 leaves
  • Hing/ Asafotida – 4 pinches
  • Mixed Vegetables – 3.5 cups, chopped
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Yogurt – 1/4 cup
  • Water – as required
  • Cilantro…

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Pudhina Chutney/ Mint Chutney

Pudhina chutney 4

This recipe is my mom’s. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


  • Oil – 1 tsp + 1 tsp divided
  • Dry red chilli – 2
  • Ginger – 1 tbsp, cut into small pieces
  • Garlic – 2 big cloves, sliced
  • Urad dal – 1 tbsp
  • Mint – 2 cups, loosely packed
  • Cilantro – 1/2 cup, loosely packed
  • Tamarind – 1 tsp size ball
  • Salt – to taste
  • For seasoning:
    • Oil – 1 tbsp
    • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
    • Urad dal – 1/4 tsp
    • Curry leaves – 6


    • Pluck the leaves from the mint stalks. Wash and drain them.
    • Wash and chop the cilantro.
    • Heat 1 tsp of oil in a wok.
    • Add dry red chillies and saute them until they puff up. Remove the chillies onto a plate.
    • Add urad dal and saute them until they turn golden brown, stir continuously. Remove it onto the plate.
    • Add 1 tsp of oil to the same wok and saute the ginger and garlic until the garlic turns golden brown. Remove it onto the plate.
    • Saute mint and cilantro together until the water evaporates and they wilt. Remove it onto the plate.
    • Let the roasted ingredients cool down completely.

Pudhina chutney 1

    • Grind the roasted ingredients along with tamarind, salt and 1/2 cup of water to a fine paste.
    • Using the same wok; Heat 1 tbsp of oil.
    • Add mustard seeds and wait till it splutters.
    • Add urad dal and curry leaves. Saute until the urad dal turns golden brown.
    • Add the ground mint chutney to the seasoning. Turn down the heat to low.
    • Add 1/4 cup of water to the mixie jar in which you ground the chutney and swirl it around. Add it to the wok.

Pudhina chutney 2

    • Keep stirring occasionally and let the chutney cook for 3 minutes.
    • Add salt if required.

Pudhina chutney 3



  • Pudhina chutney can be refrigerated for for upto 3-4 days.
  • Can be served with rice and sambar.
  • A good side dish for dosa and idli.
  • Works well with baji, curd rice and any dal gravy.

Maa Vilakku

Maa vilakku 1

I have been making maa vilakku for Karthigai Deepam for the past 4 or 5 years. It was not easy to make(atleast for me). After many fail attempts, I got it right.The consistency of the dough is important. If the dough is too watery, the lamp won’t hold its shape. So when you mix the dough after adding water, make sure you knead for at least 3-4 minutes after each addition of water. The heat from your hand and water will melt the jaggery as you mix. Use your hand to mix the dough. Add 1/2 tsp of water at a time to mix the dough.


  • Rice flour – 1/2 cup
  • Powdered jaggery – 1/2 cup
  • Cardamom powder – 2 pinch
  • Water – as required


  • Mix rice flour, powdered jaggery and cardamom powder together in a bowl.

Maa vilakku 4


  • Mix for 4 minutes using your hand.
  • Add very little water(1/2 to 1 tsp) and mix well for 4 minutes.
  • Add more water if required and mix really well after each addition until the dough comes together.
  • Make a ball using the dough and shape it into a lamp.
  • Place it on a plate.










Maa vilakku 3


  • Add ghee and cotton wick.


Maa vilakku 2



Pidi Kozhukattai

Uma's Kitchen

Pidi Kozhukattai

Pidi kozhukattai’s are made specially during karthigai deepam. Kaara kozhukattai and innipu kozhukattai’s are made on this day. This is my mom’s recipe.

Ingredients for Kaara Kozhukattai:

  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/8 tsp
  • Chana dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 5 leaves
  • Red chilli -1
  • Coconut – 1 tbsp, cut into small pieces
  • Water – 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Rice flour – 1/2 cup

Method for making Kaara Kozhukattai:

  • Heat oil in a non stick pan.
  • Add mustard seeds and wait till it splutters.
  • Add the curry leaves, chana dal and red chilli.
  • When the chana dal turns golden brown, remove the red chilli and add water and coconut pieces to it.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • When the water boils, add the rice flour and stir continuously for a minute.
  • Remove from heat.
  • When the dough is warm enough to handle…

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