Gravy side-dishes / Kootu/South-Indian dal with veggies

Ven Pongal & Zucchini kootu

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I was never a big fan of either pongal or rava upma. I can happily eat idli or dosa with gunpowder any time of the day or night, but not so with the other two tiffin items. Not that I’ll leave them untouched (nothing, except brinjals, remain un-devoured when kept in front of me!), but I wouldn’t attack them with enthusiasm either.

But I remember this particular incident when I was in class 12. A cousin of mine, who was studying engineering at BITS (Birla Institute of technology & Science), Pilani, used to come down to visit us once every few months. She’d wax eloquent about the horrible food at her canteen and ma would happily pack some pickles, podis and other south-Indian snacks that were hard to come by at Pilani.

She usually boarded a train back to Pilani at Gurgaon (that’s where my parents are based) in the afternoon and would reach Pilani around dinnertime. One such time, she requested my mother to pack evening tiffin for about 8 people. Some of her friends had boarded the same train at an earlier stop and it wouldn’t be too nice to be the only one eating yummy home-cooked stuff while the others depended on the fare available enroute. So my ma prepared rava upma and pongal along with some chutneys. My cousin called up later that night to say that all the gang polished the entire package in minutes!

I could never understand my cousin’s excitement that day about these two plain south-Indian items till much later when I moved toBangaloreand started cooking. I used to work night shifts and packed dinner. I usually prepared wholesome non-messy items that could easily fit into one box without the need multiple side-dishes. This came to include both upma and pongal, apart from curd-rice topped with finely-chopped raw veggies and rotis rolled with cooked vegetables inside (interestingly titled ‘frankie’ by some innovative marketer) apart from other standards like idli and dosa.

Now I so love pongal, I often have it for lunch, like I did today.

PS: You can modify this dish to turn it into a north-Indian khichdi. Recipe for that follows the one for pongal.


(Quantities mentioned will make enough pongal for two for breakfast)


Uncooked rice – ½ cup

Moong dal (payatham paruppu/split green gram) – ¼ cup

Ginger – ¼ inch piece finely chopped

Green chillies – 2

Black peppercorns – 7-8

Jeera – ½ tsp

Ghee – 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds – a pinch

Curry leaves – a few

Hing (peringayam) – a pinch

Cashew nuts – 4-5 broken



Mix and wash rice and dal well and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles along with pepper, jeera and one slit green chilly in nearly 1.25 times the usual quantity of water (about 2.5-3 cups for ¾ cup of rice-dal mix). Let cool (You can also add pepper and jeera later in the seasoning, but I feel the essence of the pepper is well absorbed if cooked with rice and dal)

Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds, followed by one slit green chilly, cashew nuts, hing and curry leaves (Add pepper now if not added to rice while cooking. Jeera is added later)

Mash cooked rice-dal mix with a ladle and add it to the pan. Add salt. Mix well and serve

For Khichdi

Chop 1 onion and ½ cup of any vegetable you like. You can add many vegetables and make it a colourful affair! Add an extra slit chilli and/or 1 tsp garam masala (or sambhar powder). Add all veggies after spluttering mustard and curry leaves (before adding cooked rice-dal) and sauté till they are tender. The rest of the procedure remains same


I had just 1 tbsp of moong dal today, so I used toor dal (I must restock in time!) and the pongal was just as tasty

Leave out the cashew nuts to reduce the calorie count like I did. Well, if you’re so conscious about what you eat, you’d also reduce the quantity of ghee to 1 tsp!

I served pongal with yesterday’s kothamalli thokku (the red chutney in the pic is a readymade tomato pickle and added to the plate just for the colourful effect it creates). Btw, the pongal quantity looks tiny because, well, I remembered about taking shots only after I had nearly polished it all off!

Zucchini-Fresh green peas Poricha Kootu

(Serves two)


Zucchini (diced) – 2 cups

Fresh green peas – ½

Toor dal (thuvaram paruppu/split pigeon peas) – ½ cup (you can use moong dal or a mix of moong and toor dal, or even masoor dal (red gram). Using 2 tsp of chana dal will also add to the taste. You could also cut down dal quantity and substitute with whole green moong)


Oil – 1tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Urad dal (split black gram)/chana dal (bengal gram) – 2 tsp

Hing – 1 pinch

For grinding into a powder:

Fresh grated coconut – 1 tbsp

Dry red chillies – 2-3

Jeera – 2-3 tsp

Black peppercorns – ½ tsp

Curry leaves – 8-10


Pressure cook dal in 1 cup of water. Let it cool

Steam zucchini with some salt or microwave on full power twice for 2 mins each. Take care not to overcook the vegetable. Cook it just enough for it lose its raw taste. Mix the peas with the zucchini. It’ll get cooked in the heat of this vegetable

Dry grind all the ‘for the powder’ ingredients and keep aside. No roasting required

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a wok. Splutter mustard seeds

Once they stop popping, add urad/chana dal and sauté till golden brown. Add hing

Add zucchini and ground powder and sauté for a minute

Add cooked dal and sauté for another minute. Add salt

Mix well, take off heat and serve


I usually use moong/masoor dal for kootu since these are easier to digest and light on the tummy. I add about ¼ cup of toor dal and/or 1 tbsp of chana dal for a change in taste

Since my dry mixer-grinder is bigger than the usual size, I generally grind double the quantity of spice powder required and store it for later use. You too can do the same, but store it in the refrigerator and for not more than a week since it contains fresh curry leaves as well as coconut. The powder prepared today can be used for any stir-fried vegetable

In addition to the above-mentioned spices, I added 1 tsp of powder ground yesterday for the kothamalli thokku


3 thoughts on “Ven Pongal & Zucchini kootu

  1. hi,
    i like ven pongal and make it a point to make it durin pongal./ sankranti…but my north-indian mil n vikash don’t seem to enjoy the pongal wiout turmeric…it seems they regard it inauspicious too to cook without haldi…neway i enjoy both pongal as well as khicdi…is tasty with applam..vikash likes khicdi with aloo ka bhijiya..or bhangan chokha !!

  2. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you, However I am going through problems with your RSS.
    I don’t know the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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