Sakkarai Pongal, Tamil-Style Rice Pudding ». Ingalls Photography

During the south Indian harvest festival of Pongal, milk and rice are put into a clay pot and boiled. If the pot boils evenly on all sides, it’s a sign of prosperity for the year to come. The festival’s namesake dish, a luscious pudding made with the season’s first rice, is sweetened with jaggery and adorned with cashews and raisins; it makes a satisfying dessert any time of year. This recipe first appeared in our August/September 2014 special India issue with Akash Kapur’s story The Year’s Sweetest Taste.

Yield: serves 4


  • 1 cup long grain white rice, rinsed
  • 14 cup moong dal (dried mung beans), rinsed, soaked 30 minutes, and drained
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 14 cup ghee
  • 12 cup cashew halves
  • 3 tbsp. golden raisins
  • 1 14 cups grated jaggery or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom


  1. Bring rice, dal, and 4 1⁄2 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until rice is tender, 12–14 minutes. Add milk and cinnamon; cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until dal is mushy, 20–22 minutes. Melt ghee in an 8″ skillet over medium-high; cook cashews and raisins until raisins are plump, 2–3 minutes. Stir into rice with jaggery and cardamom; cook, until jaggery is melted and pudding is slightly thickened, 3–4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.