Almost every festival has this item as part of its Prasadam in Andhra Pradesh. It is made by people from other states as well, though not necessarily in the same way.
Vada Pappu is simply soaked moong dal. Once it has soaked sufficiently, the water is drained, and the vada pappu is put forth in the prasadam. One can have the vada pappu with finely chopped pieces of coconut and green chillies as well. But traditionally, prasadam is served plain.
Panakam is essentially a jaggery syrup. It is usually spiced with cardamoms. However, during Dussera, it is also spiced with pepper, adding another dimension to the flavour. Unlike sugar syrup, Panakam has a slightly acidic taste. The cardamom and pepper temper the sweetness. So the main focus is the amount of jaggery used, and sufficient amount of pepper and cardamom have been used. Together, the flavours are heavenly! Mostly the ratio of jaggery to water is 1:1. So dont be baffled if the jaggery you’ve used is light in color, and the panakam is dark. Jaggery does tend to turn dark when added to water.
When served together, the vada pappu tends to soak up the sweetness of the panakam, so one doesn’t feel as though you have something very sweet and heavy.
That, of course, becomes the perfect excuse to indulge in a bit of festive sweetness, a bit of vada pappu – panakam.