Monday, April 23, 2012

Pongal, Vada and a Happy Husband

My husband is a big fan of the pongal you get in restaurants in Chennai. Unfortunately, I have never worked in any of those restaurants nor do I know any person who does! I also had no idea why their pongal tasted so different from what I made at home. Well, last week, my mother told me that one of her colleagues had offered her pongal which tasted awesomely ‘hotel-like’. She of course asked her friend for the recipe and then gave it to me.
My father was the one who told me the recipe over the phone…he even dropped in a few tips of his own, showing his expertise upon having made it successfully, twice. 
I decided that Saturday was the day to do the honors and I was pretty amazed with the results. My husband graded it to be pretty close to restaurant quality…that’s more than I had hoped for.  
Another dish which I recently succeeded at was the urad dal vada. Until last week, I had never really mastered the art of making perfectly shaped vadas. I happened to find one recipe which made it really simple and clear, and the results? See for yourself.
Raw rice – ½ cup
Moong dal – ⅛ cup
Water – 1½ cups
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin powder (optional) – ½ tsp
Whole peppercorns – 6-7
Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 + ¼ tbsps
Oil – 2 tbsps (I used canola)
Salt to taste
Cashew nuts for garnish
Wash the rice and dal and cook them in a pressure cooker, along with some salt, pepper, and cumin powder (if using). I kept it for 6 whistles; you can gauge the time according to how quickly or slowly your rice cooks. The end product needs to be very well cooked. Keep aside.
Heat a thick bottomed vessel on medium heat and add 1 tbsp ghee and oil. (It is this oil-ghee combination that gives the pongal the highly desired hotel flavor). Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Once the sizzling reduces, add the cooked rice-dal mixture and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be mashed as much as possible. Heat the ¼ tbsp ghee in a small pan, add the cashew nuts and toast for a couple of minutes.  Add the toasted cashews to the mashed mixture and serve hot with coconut chutney/sambar, vada.
Urad Dal – 1 cup
Corn flour – 2-3 tbsps
Chopped onion – ¼ cup
Green chilies – 2 (according to heat level)
Chopped ginger – ½ tsp
Curry leaves - few
Salt – to taste
Oil – for deep frying
Soak the urad dal for at least 30 minutes. Moisten the inside of the blender jar, add the soaked dal and grind using no more that 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Once the dal is fully ground, add the corn flour and let the blender run for another 1-2 min, allowing the corn flour to get incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 10-15 minutes.
Heat oil in a kadai and keep ready. Remove the batter form the freezer/fridge, add the green chilies, onion, ginger, and salt and mix well. Take a zip lock bag, wet it with a little bit of water and keep ready. Moisten your hand, grab a ball of batter (lemon sized), and pat it down onto the zip lock bag. Moisten your fingers again, poke a hole in the middle of the vada, shape the edges and slide into the hot oil.
Do not overcrowd the pan, otherwise the vadas will not cook evenly. Also, do not overheat the oil else the outside will burn while the inside will remain uncooked.
Fry the vadas until they turn dark golden brown, remove onto a paper towel and serve hot. Bon App├ętit.

Link to original recipe -

Thank you Renuka  from Pinch of Salt for this fabulous award.

Here are the rules for the award
  • Thank the person who nominated you for this Award and link them back
  • Then state some 5 random facts about you.
  • Spread the joy by nominating fellow bloggers, as a way of appreciation.
  • Finally inform the bloggers about the awards.

5 Random Facts About Me (Aparna)
  • Cooking and Baking are my top passions
  • Photographing the food I make comes in next
  • There are times when I am absolutely clueless of what to blog about (a cook’s block if you will)
  • I love listening to music while cooking/writing/reading.
  • I am always on the look out for new recipes to try (so thank you, fellow bloggers, for posting such amazing recipes)

Bloggers nominated by me
  • Julie from
  • Niv Mani from
  • Sobha from
  • Michelle from
  • Vardhini from
  • Ruchira from
  • Ashwini from


  1. Ha! who knew the secret was mixing things up.. and The things we do for hubbys! Loved your narrative.

  2. I love a good venn pongal, dripping with ghee, melting in the mouth. Yours looks really good

  3. The title of the post sounds like some movie name :D. I make pongal often, but never knew oil-ghee is the real secret to hotel style taste..actually I never had pongal from any hotel..:). Vada is just awesome, I would love to try this way..sounds simple !!

  4. Love this combo..looks delicious n yummm

  5. Thanks Anshie and Hooney.
    Hooney, I agree with you, even though mine is not dripping with ghee, it was pretty darn good :-)
    Anshie, thanks, I know...the things we do for hubbys :-)

  6. Hi.. there's an award waiting for you.. :)collect it here

  7. Your Hubby is lucky to get a wifey who puts her parents to work to get recipes which he likes and even luckier to get a FIL who does his job pretty well. Love Dads for what they are and do for us.
    Love Ash.

  8. Hey Sobha, should try the is super simple.
    Thanks Pratibha
    Thank you Renuka
    Thanks Julie
    Thanks for the wonderful comment Ash :-)

  9. Oooh, i'll do almost anything for home cooked vadai! :) This is my first time here and love it!

  10. very nice and lovely. A delicious pongal my all time fav

  11. Thank you Non-Stick, Nutty and Sous-Chef and Vidhya :-)

  12. you vada looks special and delicious from the pics... they are made up of flavorful and aromatic ingredients... especially the ghee. a great try for me. have a nice day

  13. Thank you 'CookingVarieties' :-). Do try it and let us know how you liked it.