While Diwali is celebrated on hyperactive mode, Pongal is a more modest and humble festival but the joy and positivity it brings along is no less than any other festival. This is the time you would want to spend in a village in the southern part of India to understand how important this festival actually is. Everything is washed sparkling clean, even houses or huts. All the homes adorn huge beautiful kolams in the front yard. Everyone is dressed up in new clothes. The loud speakers are blaring away the latest super hit songs and no one seems to mind the noise pollution - it helps them get in the spirit. There are huge tall stacks of Sugarcane everywhere and the young men are often found walking around biting into the sugarcane as they check out the young girls in the village. And someone soon gets into trouble too!
In the middle of the village a community Pongal is set up where all the women folk gather together and keep ponga-panai (pots) and pray. This festival is a way they offer their thanks to the Sun God, Surya (not the hot actor but the truly hot Sun). They thank the God for the good harvest that he provided and they dedicate the very first crop to him as a token of thanks. The pot is well decorated with things like turmeric, sugarcane, bananas, fresh flowers and everything that signifies prosperity. The women folk boil rice with milk and jaggery in the pot early in the morning as the sun rises. And when the milk boils and spills over, a big Pongalo Pongal is chanted loudly.
The day before Pongal is called Bhogi wherein all the old and unnecessary material things are discarded of and everyone gets ready to prepare for the next big day for Pongal. The day after Pongal is the Maatu (Cow) Pongal where the cows that are so much a part of a harvest as they carry around the harvester and help the farmers to harvest the crop, are celebrated. All the cows are given a luxury bath of their lives and get their horns painted in vibrant colors and get little pieces of decorative clothing on them and are just taken around for a walk in the neighborhood to show off its costume. This is the day the farmer thanks his cow for all the hard work it puts for him throughout the year. We also celebrate Kannu Pongal which is a day where the sisters pray for the welfare of their brothers and also pray that all the members of the family stay together with happiness always.
I do miss all of these wonderful things sitting here in the US, but we all have imagination and memories and of course the internet to take us back to these places. And one way to connect back to our roots is to of course prepare the specialty food that is done during the festival. And so, here we are, at Poli. This is usually made for the Bhogi festival and is also one of my favorites. When I just eat it hot with a dollop of ghee, I get automatically transported back home and can almost hear the latest song on the loud speakers!
These were my two wonderful references to make Poli. One from Shanthi Maami and the other from Lata Raja - I used the measurements from Lataji's post and the method from Shanthi maami's. And it was both right on. Thank you Shanti Maami and Lataji for your wonderful posts on Poli.
Take about 3 cups of all purpose flour.
Add 1/4 tsp of salt
Add a pinch of turmeric powder
Add about 1/3 cup of oil, I used regular vegetable oil.
Add 3/4 cup of water
I added all of the above to my electric mixer with the hook attachment to make the dough.
Turn the hook on and add few drops of water if you think the dough is too dry.
Once the dough is ready, just place it in a well oiled bowl and cover and keep aside for about an hour.
Soak 2 cups of channa daal in warm water for about an hour.
You will also need -
2 1/4 cups of powdered jaggery.
1 1/2 cups of coconut (Lata calls for 2 but I was almost out of coconut and was saving a little for something else - so I added only about 1 1/2)
Cardamom - about 1/4 tsp
If you have jaggery in big cubes, like I did, you can quickly chop them up in the food processor. Set aside when ready.
Strain all the water from the soaked channa daal. Add the daal to the food processor to make it into an almost powder form.
Next, just add the coconut on top the powdered daal and give this a few more spins. Until they are both well incorporated.
Next, add the 2 1/4 cups of powdered jaggery to this and process it all together. I did this for a little long time and the jaggery actually melted and it became kind of watery. So, if you are following this method - just pulse for a few times until they mix up together.
Then move the mixture to a pan and heat up in medium heat. The jaggery will initially melt and your heart might go pitter patter - but hang in there and keep stirring for about 15 mins - this will start to thicken up and take a kind of a ball consistency. At that point, when its dry and starting to form a big ball, switch off the stove and move this to a wide plate.
See how that thickened up. Let this cool down for about 20 mins - that will make it a little more dry and easy to make into small balls.
Using a little flour on your hands, just take a spoonful of the mixture and make into small balls. So, with this quantity, you get about 28 poornams.
Now, take a little of the dough and roll out into a small disc. Add the filling in the middle.
Fold over on all sides.
Flatten a little.
You can either press them down using your hands or roll them with a rolling pin. Mine were actually easy to just roll out and was not sticking. You can dab a little oil on the sides while rolling out if it feels sticky.
Once they are ready, heat this up on a tawa in medium heat and flip on both sides to cook it evenly. You can add ghee while cooking it. But, I just cooked is dry and add ghee to it on top before serving.
If you really want to enjoy the polis, eat them hot with melted ghee on top. And that's when you will smell the mann vasanai (smell of warm and moist mud on the ground) of your home town. I did. You will too.
I have plenty of polis at home now to get me through this weekend. Oh wait, I was dieting. Oh well, there's always monday.
Happy Pongal to all of you. Time to thank the heavens for all you have even if you are not a farmer.
Enjoy. Peace Out.