Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

This sweet rice pudding is a traditional Tamil New Year dessert and is also served at other auspicious ceremonies and special occasions. One morning, when I was walking along the beach in Point Pedro, I came across an entire village eating pongal from banana leaves. A local fisherman had recently purchased a new boat, and his wife had set up her cooking equipment on the beach, lit a fire and made a large pot of pongal. Making pongal for everyone was a way to share their joy with the community and to bless their boat with prosperity.


  • 55 g (2 oz/¼ cup) green gram* (dried mung beans)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, plus 1 tablespoon extra
  • 80 g ( oz/½ cup) raw cashew nuts, roughly chopped, plus 40 g ( oz/¼ cup) extra (left whole), to garnish
  • 50 g ( oz/ cup) raisins
  • 420 g (15 oz/2 cups) red rice*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 260 g ( oz/ cups) jaggery powder*
  • 8 cardamom pods, pounded into a powder (or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 120 g ( oz/1 cup) freshly scraped coconut*
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut milk*
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) coconut cream*


Dry-roast the green gram in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the green gram until they split, then set aside.

Melt the ghee in the frying pan over medium heat, add the chopped cashews and raisins and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the whole cashews and fry until golden. Remove and set aside to cool (these will be used for garnishing).

Wash the red rice thoroughly in cold water. Bring 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) water to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the red rice, green gram and salt. Stir to combine, bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender (the consistency should be quite slushy; add more boiling water if needed).

Add the jaggery powder and simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the jaggery dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Stir continuously, so the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the cardamom, fried cashews and raisins, coconut and the extra ghee, and mix to combine. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Slowly add the coconut milk and cream, continuing to stir. Simmer for 1 minute, or until the consistency is thick and sticky. Serve warm and garnish with the extra cashew nuts.