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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


B for Bisibelebhath ~ BM#15

If I am given a chance to pick my last meal on earth, I would go either with a plate of bisibelebhath or poori - saagu. :) Those two dishes are my absolute favorites and I love them that much. It was an unwritten rule in our home while I was growing up that bisibelebhath had to be a part of my birthday meal. Now I prepare it at least once or twice in a month but surprisingly, it hasn't been featured yet here even after five years of blogging. And so it's time for the bhath recipe now.
Most of the Indians (particularly bloggers) don't need an introduction to bisibelebhath / bisibelehulianna / BBB since it tops the list when one thinks about Karnataka cuisine. The rice- lentil- vegetable mixture is leisurely cooked and then goes in the fresh spice mixture which gives the BBB it's characteristic, special flavor.
If you are looking for other variations, check these posts.
Brown Rice Bisibelehulianna
Cracked Wheat Bisibele Huli
Poha Bisibelehuli
Quinoa Bisibelehuli

The words Bisi-Bele-Bhath literally translates the essence of the dish in a nutshell.
1. Bisi literally means hot in Kannada. The heat referred is in terms of the temperature and not the spice level. (The syllable "Bi" is pronounced as in the word "Bin" while "Si" as in the word "Sin".) 
2. Bhath (not bath) refers to the cooked rice in Hindi and some other Indian languages. Bhath is a term generally used for rice dishes.
3. Now coming to the middle part of the name. I have seen many bloggers who are not familiar with Kannada getting stumped here. I have seen even spellings like bella and billa. :) Though not phonetically correct, somehow the accepted spelling is "Bele". Now the syllable "be" is prounounced as "bay". It is difficult to explain non Indians how to pronounce the syllable le in the word BBB. Le is pronounced as "lay". (Actually English language doesn't have the la sound used here. You kind of roll out your tongue and say it). Here, the la used is the one that comes after the Indian alphabet "ha". Hope it is not too confusing. Now bele refers to the lentils used in the dish.
Bisibelebhath so literally means hot rice - lentil mixture.

Ingredients used:
1. Coming to choice of rice, sona masuri / long grain rice is preferred. Basmati rice is strictly "No". Usually the rice and lentils are used in 2:1 ratio.
2. Beans, potatoes, peas, carrot and chayote are the vegetables commonly used in BBB preparation. Onions and garlic are not used. I have seen bisibelebhath recipes online using okra, eggplants, tindora, drumsticks and even beetroots. They may be good choices for sambhar rice preparation but are definitely weird choices if you are looking for a traditional version of bisibelebhath.
3. Commercial brand spice mix may be used for a short cut version but those including MTRs don't stand a chance before homemade spice mix.

Cooking method:
A pressure cooker may be a time saver but I prefer to cook it in a pot leisurely. It takes around 40 - 45 minutes including the prep time and it is totally worth it. This delicious dish definitely deserves that kind of attention. My mother would take out her large brass pot from the attic to cook BBB but I use a non stick pot so that the rice wouldn't stick to the bottom. Go with a thick bottomed pot or a non stick one and cook leisurely so that you end up with a perfect textured and right flavored bhath.
Some even cook dal and vegetables together and add it to the rice that has been cooked separately.

1 cup rice
1/2 cup lentils / toordal
3 cups chopped vegetables (I used about 20 green beans cut into one inch pieces, 2 carrots, 2 small sized potatoes, 1 small chayote, a handful of frozen peas and 3 plum tomatoes. I added frozen peas at the final stages of cooking.)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Salt as needed
1 - 2 Tbsp tamarind puree
To toast and grind:
2 Tbsp chana dal / split yellow peas, 1 Tbsp urad dal / split, skinned black gram, 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, 15 - 20 dried red chillies, 2 one inch pieces of cinnamon, 6 maratha moggu, 2 cloves and 2 - 3 Tbsp grated, dry coconut
For tadka:
2 -3 Tbsp ghee (Be generous with the quantity if you wish.), 2 tsp of mustard seeds, a handful of cashews and curry leaves

* Wash toor dal and rice individually in two exchanges of water and keep aside.
* Add toor dal, turmeric and about 6 cups of water to a non stick pot and bring to boil. Cook on high flame for about 10 minutes.
* In the meanwhile, prepare the veggies. Chop chayote and potatoes into big cubes to avoid them turning into a mush.  
* After lentils are cooked for about 10 minutes, add veggies and rice to the pot and continue to cook. Keep stirring in between and cook until rice and lentils are done. Add extra water as needed. (4 more cups of water may be needed.)
* While the lentil - rice mixture is being cooked, toast the ingredients mentioned under "to toast and grind". You may add a tsp of oil to toast but I usually avoid it. First add chana dal and start toasting. When it starts to change color, add the other ingredients and toast until both chanadal and urad dal turns light brown. Cool the ingredients and powder them along with coconut.
*Add this spice powder, salt and tamarind to the rice - lentil mixture and simmer for about five minutes and turn off the stove.
* Heat ghee in small pan and add the tadka ingredients. When cashews turn golden brown and mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the stove and add it to the cooked bhath and mix well.
* Serve warm with boondi / papad.



Chef Mireille said...

what a flavorful stew..I understand why you love it so...this is great comfort food for wintertime!

chef and her kitchen said...

Even I love this meal very much..my friends use to pronounce it in a very funny manner--'alla bath'..;) I was surprised that it did not get featured so far in ur blog

Kalyani said...

BBB is the ultimate comfort food.. and I hate it when people call it Sambhar saadam / sambhar rice !! and yes, also add okra / garlic to it !!

ur version along with the pics, complete with the papad is soooo inviting, wish I could have a bowl right now !

Sizzling Tastebuds
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Srivalli said...

Ah, that's my favorite too Suma. Only last weekend Amma gave me a MTR BBB masala to check out if it matches our homemade taste. It was good, still not the same. Love your plate and yes your explanation was very good. The first time I blogged abt it I made the mistake of Bella, as I remember always pronouncing it like that..had it royally corrected by a Kannadiga..LOL..

Priya Srinivasan - I Camp in My Kitchen said...

so, so mouth-watering!!!! love that tempering on top!!! My favorite too!!!!

Priya Suresh said...

Even i'll choose BBB first, my kind of food..I can survive for many days with this comforting food..Lovely captures..

vaishali sabnani said...

I have had it once!!..ages back a friend had cooked it..well now I shall cook and invite her..looks very inviting!!

Champa said...

You sound like me when you say you would have this as your last meal. I love bisibelebhath very much.

Nalini's Kitchen said...

Looks delicious and tempting...drooling over the pictures...

Unknown said...

I absolutely love it, beautiful and delicious pic :)

Gayathri Kumar said...

My fav dish. After getting married, I have not tasted it yet. You have explained it so well and tempted me into preparing this...

Harini R said...

Good one. I have grown up eating a very spicy BBB but can't tolerate so much spice now. My in-laws were introduced to BBB after my wedding and they love it!

anjana said...

delicious masala khichdi..next time when I make khichdi I will surely try this..

Jayanthi said...

I love bisebellabath...love the color and the vessel...looks so inviting. Good one Suma.

Degchi said...

Delicious and comforting one pot meal.

Pavani said...

LOVE bisibelebath, but I don't make it as often as I would like to. Your dish looks delicious.
Thanks for teaching the right way to say the dish's name. My manager gave me a look when I was talking to the computer trying to say bisibelebath properly by rolling my tongue ;-)

Sumi said...

Another one. I still havent tried the other ones that I have bookmarked from here.I think its high time I try those :)..really delicious

Vardhini said...

Oh my .. now I am craving for this rice. It is my favorite and love it.


rajani said...

I love this rice. Who doesn't!? It us such a comforting meal!

Spandana said...

Looks very delicious!!!

Cool Lassi(e) said...


Deeps @ Naughty Curry said...

same here, i love bbb too... looks yummy

The Pumpkin Farm said...

this looks so comforting

Myvegfare said...

exactly, love this any time, I have one in my draft, I still haven't posted it, it is really a one pot healthy meal, I too don't like to add onion and garlic to this., doesn't sound authentic at all.., This is definitely made every fortnight.., My usual 2nd saturday comfort food.., love the last click..

Anonymous said...

I made it last night as per your directions. I used to make it with MTR spice powder. This is one of my kids favorite rice item and interestingly they both like it. usually they don't agree on one whether it is a food item or TV show :). They said that it tasted amazing and better than MTR version. In my husband's words it taste like 'Amruth'.

Padmajha said...

Our family favorite!Lovely clicks Suma...

Unknown said...

Will the dish come out well even if i dont use maratha moggu, i dont get in canada i think