When Cultures Combine
When Cultures combine, The Result is Divine – By Michelle Iyer
Love is blind. Marriage on the other hand cannot afford the bliss of ignorance. It needs a strong sense of realization of the new world we are stepping into. New families, different food, different traditions. An inter-faith marriage brings some of those differences out quite starkly. I am a Christian married to an Iyer and apart from our different backgrounds, just in terms of food culture, we had our work cut out for us. But somehow, these differences combined in beautiful ways to make our union a runaway success.
I always liked South Indian food, but for me like most others, South Indian food was all about idlis and dosas. I had never really experienced Tamilian cuisine in all its simplicity and flavour. Thankfully, that began to change once we were married.
And now that I have learned of the far greater depth and variety to Tamilian cuisine than just Idlis and Dosas, I’ve come to appreciate this culture, so different from mine, even more.
I want to introduce you to one of my favorite breakfast dishes from Tamil Nad, Ven Pongal. It is almost like Khichdi, recognizable nearly across the country, immensely satiating and healthy and even a popular breakfast at weddings.
Ven Pongal (Serves 4-6)
1 cup uncooked Rice
½ cup Moong Daal (Split green Gram)
½ tsp salt or to taste
4 ½ cups Water or 3 ½ cups Water and I cup Milk
2 tbs grated fresh Coconut
1 tsp Jeera (Cumin seeds)
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
2 tbsp Ghee
2 tbsp halved Cashew nuts
4 ½ tbs Ghee
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Hing ( Asafoetida )
1 inch piece Ginger – peeled and grated
I sprig Curry Leaves
Roast the rice and daal separately in a dry frying pan over low heat, stirring continuously till fragrant.
Grind ingredients for the spice powder coarsely. Fry the cashewnuts in the ghee and set aside
Mix the rice and daal and wash and drain them completely. Add 4 ½ cups water or 3 ½ cups water and 1 cup milk and transfer to a pressure cooker. The milk adds a nice, mellow flavour. Pressure cook for 7-8 whistles, around 20 minutes. We want the rice and dal nice and mushy. Let the pressure fully release. Open the pressure cooker and immediately mash the rice and dal mixture with the back of a spoon. If you delay this process the mashing will become difficult.
Heat the oil and ghee for tempering. Add coarsely ground spice powder and the tempering ingredients and add to the cooked rice and dal. Sprinkle salt and coconut and mix well. Garnish with fried cashews and serve hot.
Serve with a freshly ground Coconut Chutney or Sambhar.