Bisi Bele Bath

A few centuries ago, bisi bele bath was one of the specialty dishes prepared in the kitchen of Mysore palace, and even today it is a popular rice dish in Karnataka. Bisi bele bath is a quintessential dish in Kanndiga cuisine just like sambar sadam, or kadamba sadam or kootanchoru, a counterpart in Tamil cuisine. It is a hearty meal prepared by stewing rice, lentils & vegetables in tamarind juice along with a unique spice mix. This rice dish is made flavourful by adding fresh peanuts along with other vegetables, a spice mix prepared with the distinctly aromatic Marati moggu (kapok bud) as the star ingredient, and also by adding the spices tempered in ghee. It is divine when a spicy Bisi bele bath served hot (as the name [bisi means hot] suggests) & viscid and hence the perfect meal for cold winter nights.

bisi-2 Bisi Bele Bath
               Hot bisi bele bath & warm curd rice for winter nights

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 Bisi Bele Bath
               Lunch with Bisi bele bath, appalam, kara boondhi & thayir pachadi

Generally, it is prepared as a one-pot meal by cooking all the ingredients in a pressure cooker or InstantPot. But I prefer to cook each component separately and mix them at the end as I feel 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 bele bath Recipe:

bisi-3 Bisi Bele Bath
Bisi bele bath using bamboo rice

Ingredients:

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 Bisi Bele Bath
Vegetables: (cut into medium sized chunks as shown below)
Carrot
Broad beans (avarakkai)
Potato
Fresh pigeon peas (thuvarai)
Green beans
Raw mango
Raw banana
Dried peanuts (soaked for 4 hours)
Shallots (sambar vengayam)
bisi-veggies Bisi Bele Bath
Bisi bele 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 very small quantities so that the entire spice powder can be used in one go.

** Some, esp. Tamilians, may not enjoy the strong flavors of spices in this rice dish somewhat similar to sambar sadam, so cinnamon & cloves may be considered optional but I highly recommend the mildly-flavored Marati moggu that lends an authentic flavour.

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

bisi-belabhath-masala Bisi Bele Bath
Bisi bele bath masala ingredients
For tempering: 
Ghee2 tbsp
Mustard seeds1 tsp
Cashew nutsas desired
Curry leaves2/3 sprigs
bisi-tempering Bisi Bele 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 Bisi Bele Bath

Steaming vegetables:

cooking-veggies Bisi Bele Bath

Bisi bele bath masala:

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 Bisi Bele Bath

Cooking bisi bele bath:

  • Heat a large heavy bottom pan with 1 tbsp of ghee on medium flame.
  • Add shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add turmeric powder & asafoetida powder and stir-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 Bisi Bele Bath
Bisi bele bath recipe

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 bisibele 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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  1. Somehow I missed this, actually I always wanted to make bisibella bath. I will follow your directions from this recipe. Can I use pacha arisi or the one we use for sarkarai pongal (red color rice)? Here in US, I only by some kind of dark red basmati rice, but have seen the pacha arisi.
    what is moongil arisi? Is it a type of brown rice? Never heard of it

    1. Bamboo rice (moongil arisi) is a traditional rice variety, I like to use such nutritious dark-colored rice for making sambar sadam or bisibelebath to mask its true color and also to enjoy its health benefits.
      But you can use any type of rice for making this slightly mushy rice dish.
      Thanks much for dropping by.

  2. when you added raw mango and raw banana, are they for the flavor or nutrition? I imagine if it is ok to add up other fruit, such as dry pineapple, or fresh cranberries? ^^

    1. Yes, it is mainly for adding the sour flavor, but I’m afraid that the sweetness of pineapple or any other fruits with sweet & sour flavor would change the flavour of this dish completely. We are actually looking for spicy but slightly tangy bisibelebath. πŸ™‚
      Thanks, Miss.Oscar, for your time and comment.

      1. Got it! Then, this is a good direction — sour flavor! ^^
        So much fun experimenting food!
        Thank you for the inspirational recipes and articles.

    1. Thanks, Kristen! We are all fine here, hope you are all in good health and great spirits in this really crazy time.

    1. Yes, they both are same in many aspects, but have entirely different aroma. Hope you like to try this sometime.
      Thank you.

    1. They are actually seeds of bamboo plants. I heard that Japanese also cook bamboo rice, and I wish you could try them once. πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you so much! Wish you an exciting New Year filled with unforgettable adventures! ?

  3. Hi Megala, first post of this evening in my reader! A delicious looking thali for this winter and as usual with an innovative twist. Can moongil arisi be cooked in a pressure cooker? What is the time it takes to cook? Or can it be cooked in the ordinary way easily?

    1. I cooked it in a pressure cooker after soaking it for few hours and then crumbled them. Here I want this rice mushy, so I used water in 1:4 and simmered for 15 minutes.
      I think it is not necessary to soak them if you don’t want it mushy, but it will need 20-25 minutes of simmering.
      I heard that moongil arisi is rich in nutrients, and I like the smoky flavor in it, hope you would like to try this rice in this Pongal. πŸ™‚
      Thanks so much!

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