Bisibele bath

Bisi bele bath was a speciality dish prepared in the kitchen of Mysore palace a few centuries ago, and it is still a popular rice dish in Karnataka. Bisi bele bath is a hearty meal prepared by stewing rice, lentils & vegetables along with a spice powder in tamarind juice just like any other sambar sadam, kootanchoru, or kadamba sadam. But bisi bele bath is made special by adding fresh peanuts and/or fresh beans along with other vegetables, a unique flavorful spice powder made with the distinctly aromatic Marati moggu (kapok bud) as the star ingredient, and also by adding generous amount of ghee. It is divine when spicy bisi bele bath is served viscid & hot (as the name [bisi means hot] suggests) in the cold winter night along with warm curd rice.

bisi-2 Bisibele bath
               Hot bisibele bath & warm curd rice for dinner during winter

Bisi bele bath is usually garnished with crispy kara boondhi (fried chickpea flour pearls) and served with raitha (yogurt salad) & appalam (fried lentil disc), but some may like to serve with stir-fried potatoes or potato chips.

bisi-1 Bisibele bath
               Bisi bele bath with appalam, kara boondhi & thayir pachadi

Generally bisi bele bath is prepared as a one-pot meal by cooking all the ingredients using pressure cooker or InstantPot, but I prefer to cook each component separately and mix them at the end as it is essential to keep the rice & lentils mixture viscous and the vegetables chunky. So I have cooked the rice & lentils separately in a pressure cooker, steamed the vegetables, and saute shallots in ghee to make this dish more palatable. Now I have prepared bisi bele bath using bamboo rice to make it even more special and nourishing, and the recipe is as below.

bisi-3 Bisibele bath
                                            Bisibele bath using bamboo rice


Main ingredients: 
Rice (I used bamboo rice/ moongil arisi)1 cup
Red gram (toor dal/ thuvaram paruppu)1/2 cup
A lemon sized tamarind 
Jaggery1 tsp
Turmeric powder1/4 tsp
Asafoetida powder1/4 tsp
Salt1 and 1/2 tsp
basic-ingr Bisibele bath
Vegetables: (cut into medium sized chunks as shown below)
Broad beans (avarakkai)
Fresh pigeon peas (thuvarai)
Green beans
Raw mango
Raw banana
Dried peanuts (soaked for 4 hours)
Shallots (sambar vengayam)
bisi-veggies Bisibele bath
                 Bisibele bath vegetables
Ingredients for the spice powder: *
3 Byadagi Chillies***
4 Salem chillies
Black gram (ulundham paruppu)
Bengal gram (kadalai paruppu)
Malli vidhai (dhania)
Black pepper
Fenugreek seeds
Cumin seeds
Poppy seeds
Dry coconut
2 cardamom
2 cloves**
1/2″ cinnamon**
1 Marati moggu

*Since all the ingredients are used mainly for flavor, we can just use them in small quantities, or we can add little more for adding viscosity as well (Since toor dal takes care of viscosity, I feel we can use these for flavor alone) and the entire spice powder can be used in one go.

** Some, esp. Tamilians, do not like the addition of strong flavors of spices into sambar sadam, so cinnamon & cloves may be considered optional but I recommend not to omit the mildly-flavored Marati moggu which lends an authentic flavor to this dish.

***I used Byadagi chillies for deep red color & flavor and Salem chillies for heat.

bisi-belabhath-masala Bisibele bath
For tempering: 
Ghee2 tbsp
Mustard seeds1 tsp
Cashew nutsas desired
Curry leaves2/3 sprigs
bisi-tempering Bisibele bath

Mise en place:

Cooking rice & lentils: I soaked the bamboo rice for 3 hours, pulsed for few seconds for the ease of cooking, and then pressure cooked rice & lentils separately.

cooking-ricelentils Bisibele bath

Steaming vegetables:

cooking-veggies Bisibele bath

Preparing spice powder: First I dry roasted all the tiny ingredients (to prevent them getting burnt) along with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves & Marati moggu, and then roast the remaining ingredients (except dry coconut) in little oil. Finally all the spices are ground into a powder.

bisi-masala Bisibele bath

Making bisibele bath:

  • Heat a large heavy bottom pan with 1 tbsp of ghee in medium flame.
  • Add shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add turmeric powder & asafoetida powder and fry for 2-3 seconds.
  • Pour tamarind juice (1 to 1.5 Ltr), bring it to a boil in high flame, and cook the shallots in medium flame by keeping the lid on.
  • When shallots are cooked, add mashed rice & lentils and stir in until combined.
  • Add steamed vegetables, spice powder, salt & jaggery, and mix them gently.
  • Keep the pan covered in low flame for few minutes allowing the aroma of spice powder nicely infused with the mixture.
  • Now prepare the tempering with remaining ghee and add into bisi bele bath.
  • Serve immediately after garnishing with chopped coriander leaves & kara boondhi.
bisibele-bhath-recipe Bisibele bath

Tips & Tweaks:

  • We can make this dish simple by using just shallots alone (ie. with fewer or without vegetables).
  • Generally it is prepared with carrot, beans, potato , shallots and fresh peas, but I like to add as many vegetables as possible. We can make this dish wholesome & delicious by adding drumsticks, raw mango, raw banana, broad beans, capsicum, sweet potato & other tubers, etc.
  • I prepared bisi bele bath by mixing various components mainly to get the right texture, but if we cook all the components together in one shot using pressure cooker, we need to be little careful with the amount of heat & cooking time to prevent it getting stuck to the bottom of cooker.

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