Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.
The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!
Ingredients :Bisi bele bhath spice mix 1/4 cup of dessicated coconut 2 tbsp of coriander seeds (dhania) 2 tbsp of split chickpeas (channa dal) 2 tbsp of split black beluga lentils (urid dal) 1/2 tbsp fenugreek seeds (menthya) 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds (Khus khus or gas-gasé) 3-4 dried red chillies (feel free to add more if you like it spicy) 1 stick of cinnamon (again, add more if you like the taste of cinnamon) 3 dried cloves 7-8 curry leaves Bisi bele bhath ingredients (makes 6 generous portions) : 3 medium potatoes cut into approximately 2.5cm cubes 2 medium carrots, sliced into 0.5 cm thick slices 25 green beans chopped into 4cm pieces 1/2 a cup of red-skinned peanuts (optional) 2 cups of white rice (I used Basmati as that’s what I had but ideally, you want short-grained rice) 1 cup of split pigeon peas (toor dal) 2 tbsp of bisi bele bhath spice mix 1/4 cup (2-3 tbsp) of tamarind puree (available in Indian/Asian stores) Salt to suit your taste
1. Roast the ingredients of the spice mix one by one, cool on some kitchen towels and grind to a coarse powder in a spice blender.
2. Pressure cook the rice+lentils and vegetables+peanuts. If you don’t own a pressure cooker, chuck the rice, lentils, and peanuts into a large pot, cover with water and boil until everything is soft and mushy. Cook the vegetables in a separate pot so that they are soft but still hold their shape.
3. Melt half the butter in a clean pot. Once the butter has melted, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric and asafoetida and give it a quick stir. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the bisi bele bhath mix and stir for 1 more minute. Add the tamarind pulp and stir once again.
4. Add tomatoes, rice and lentils, vegetables and peanuts and a cup of water to the pot in Step 3 above and stir well until all the ingredients come together into a sticky, amazingly fragrant, porridge-like dish. Add the remaining butter (or some extra) to finish off your bisi bele bhath.
5. Enjoy hot or cold, with or without plain natural yoghurt, with or without some potato crisps. The crisps are a crunchy addition to the otherwise soft and squidgy dish.
6. Trust me when I say it smells and tastes way better than it looks!
1. The spice mix recipe should last for at least 3 rounds of bisi bele bhath making.
2. If you want to make it vegan, cook the tempering in vegetable oil, exclude the butter at the end and serve with soy yoghurt or leave the yoghurt out of the serving stage. These won’t affect the taste of the bisi bele bhath that much.
3. You might not believe this but cold bisi bele bhath is almost tastier than the hot version despite its name
4. You can saute some green peppers and add them at the end for added taste.
5. Other vegetables that can be added to this dish are peas and kohlrabi.
6. Occasionally, you will see recipes using small, whole shallots but that’s a big no-no in the traditional recipe.
7. Pay attention while roasting your spices as you really don’t want to burn them. Perhaps, put your camera aside at this stage of the dish.