A kitchen experiment to find the best alternative to raw rice for sweet pongal

Is it ‘thinai’? Black rice? Maybe ‘thooyamalli’, a heritage rice selection?

The cooker with black rice and dal whistles, puffing steam together with a drizzle of purple-coloured water onto my kitchen partitions.

I wince at the considered cleansing up: black rice, evidently, isn’t simple to deal with. However as soon as I open the cooker — after 5 whistles and 10-minutes of simmering on low flame — the glistening deep-purple rice makes me neglect all else.

Kavuni arisi or black rice pongal is the third selection I’m experimenting with. In an try to make sakkarai pongal with heritage rice varieties this 12 months, I slim down to three: thooyamalli, kavuni arisi, and thinai arisi. The best pongal wins, which I’ll prepare dinner on the huge day.

Sakkarai pongal is a silky concoction of rice, moong dal, jaggery and ghee. Though raw rice is broadly used, a number of heritage rice varieties make for an ideal pongal. These embody iluppai poo samba, mappilai samba, neelam, Salem sanna, jeeraga samba, hand-pound raw rice, thooyamalli, kuruvai, and thinai arisi, in accordance to Praveen Anand, govt chef, South Indian Delicacies, ITC Inns.

Millet on white background

“Pongal is a competition through which farmers supply to Nature no matter they grew on their land,” explains Praveen, including, “The above varieties are grown in the Madurai belt, the stronghold of Tamil tradition.”

Cooking time and the quantity of water required, varies for every; Praveen suggests soaking the onerous varieties comparable to mappilai samba for half an hour earlier than cooking.

Spherical 1

Thooyamalli is from his record and the rice, barely longer, however as skinny as jeeraga samba, does an ideal job of changing into one with the jaggery and dal. The style is comparable to the typical raw rice pongal; the rice, a shade darker than ivory, bears a gentle perfume.

Spherical 2

Thinai or foxtail millet is technically not a rice selection. However I determine to prepare dinner it thanks to a dialog Coimbatore-based A Shrikumar, (who works for an NGO) had with an aged man from a tribal village in the Sathyamangalam forest.

“I learnt that folks of the Urali tribe make pongal with millets, thinai, ragi, cholam, varagu or samai,” says Shrikumar. It is because they mainly develop millets in the hills. And years in the past, when jaggery was troublesome to supply, tribal folks used honey to sweeten their pongal. “In addition they made a curry with the greens they grew, to be had with pongal,” he factors out. “They used wild tubers, broad beans…no matter they cultivated.”

Clockwise from left: Black rice, thinai, and thooyamalli pongal

Clockwise from left: Black rice, thinai, and thooyamalli pongal

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I prepare dinner thinai pongal in a metal wok since millets don’t require pressure-cooking. The tiny spherical morsels yield properly — very quickly, they absorb the jaggery syrup I spoon in. Thinai has a pleasant earthy perfume that’s subdued in the finish consequence: what makes this pongal stand aside is the pleasingly grainy texture.

Spherical 3

Kavuni or black rice is the best-looking of all of them. Aside from the well being advantages the rice boasts, I choose it to try cooking a tough rice selection. Which implies it requires soaking the evening earlier than to make the rice pliable. I pressure-cook it: it’s simpler that means. However earlier than that, I unfold the soaked rice on a bit of fabric to dry and dry roast it earlier than cooking.

I add jaggery syrup and simmer the deep-purple mixture of rice and dal, however the color stays the similar. As soon as completed, I prime it with loads of ghee-roasted cashews. The style is exclusive: the rice’s nutty flavour matches jaggery’s sweetness to the T. And the pongal is chewy, with a depth of flavour.

The winner is undoubtedly black rice. It’s barely extra elaborate to prepare dinner, however the finish result’s value it.

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