I can’t believe this! I’ve been blogging my recipes for nearly 3 years and haven’t written about one of my home state Karnataka’s Crown Jewel. I make Bisi Bele Baath (roughly translated, stands for Hot Lentil Rice Stew) or BBB as this dish, henceforth shall if referred to, on a not-so-regular basis mostly because our meals of gotten lighter on the system and I ate this regularly while I lived in India, and now, our cuisine has become so diversified that rarely is anything repeated often.
A couple of months back my partner-in-crime Venu visited Dallas and it was upon his insistence (and offer to film the videos and take pictures) that I decided to make this for our meal. The entire house is suffused with the aroma of roasted onions, vegetables and spices and ghee. It was totally worth the effort.
The traditional preparation of this dish is quite elaborate and involves the use of spicy masala, toor dal (a type of lentil), rice, ghee and vegetables. Spices like nutmeg, asafetida, curry leaves and tamarind pulp contribute to its unique flavor and taste. Some versions of the dish are prepared with up to thirty ingredients! It is served hot and sometimes eaten with chutney, boondi, salad, papad, or potato chips. This recipe is said to have originated in the Mysore Palace and Vellore Fort and from there spread across the entire state of Karnataka and beyond.
The recipe steps feel like this is an involved process. It IS! There are tons of veggies to be washed, maybe peeled, and chopped. Rice needs to be soaked for a bit (especially if using Brown Basmati variety) and cooked. Of course, the toor dal (lentils) have to be prepped and cooked as well. Lot of people prefer throwing the rice, dhal and veggies into the pressure cooker and cooking them with the BBB powder. Feel free to use this shortcut. However, I prefer not to do this since the cook time of various ingredients differ and I’d prefer to keep my vegetables to not get mushed up beyond recognition (not to mention loss of nutrition). My policy: when making something once in a while, do it the right way!
Broad Steps in the Making of this Classic Dish:
- Rice: Wash rice thoroughly, preferably soak for an hour or so, and cook it either on the stovetop, or in a rice cooker. Or any other way that you are using to making rice.
- Dal: Similar to rice, the toor dal needs to be washed well, soaked (maybe for 30 mins) and pressure cooked. Yes folks, this absolutely cannot be cooked on the stovetop. Pressure cooker it is.
- Veggies: You can use a variety of vegetables in this dish. I used whatever I had on hand and didn’t go on a separate grocery expedition for this one. Carrots, French beans, turnips, peas, shelled edamame, knol kohl, green bell peppers, potatoes and chayote squash are all great choices. Even tomatoes are kosher. Fresh vegetables preferred of course. But when in a bind, go ahead and use frozen.
- Tempering: Ah, the last but not the least, the use of ghee (clarified butter) is an absolute must for this dish to take you to nirvana. If you are a vegan or have nut allergies, by all means, skip ghee and cashews respectively.
The Star of the Show: BBB Powder
So, there are many ways to skin this cat. I prefer homemade BBB masala powder because, well….I am a Kannadiga! Not really. I know a lot of folks for Karnataka that don’t use homemade powder for their BBB prep. I use homemade because my mom makes it ‘in bulk’ for herself, my sister and me. It involves a lot of slow roasting of various spices, including unusual species like Marathi moggu (kapok seeds). I recently made this powder since I ran out of it from Dassana Amit’s website Veg Recipes of India (she’s an amazing blogger, if you don’t know who she is). The other option is for you to purchase BBB masala from the store. Phalada Pure & Sure has an organic one and its close to the original which you can purchase online here. If you happen to visit Bangalore, Rama Traders in Gandhi Bazaar makes the almost-homemade quality BBB powder.
Traditionally, BBB has always been made either in the pressure cooker or over the stove top. I’ve demonstrated the Instant Pot (IP) version, but the same process can very well be followed in a large thick-bottom dish. Either way is assured to give you a sublime gastronomical experience.
We have several one pot recipes on our site. Check out some of my favorites:
- Vegetable Multigrain Khichdi
- Jeera Quinoa
- Egg Tomato Spicy Rice
- Brown Rice Vegetable Pulao
- Semiya (Vermicelli) Upma
Loaded with different varieties of fresh vegetables, this one-pot dish, especially made with brown rice and a wide variety of vegetables, delivers a wide array of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Vegetables are important part of healthy eating and provide a source of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C. Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary fiber from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
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Bisi Bele Baath
- 1/2 Cup Brown Basmati Rice Use White Rice alternatively
- 1/2 Cup Toor Dal Pigeon Peas
- 1/2 Cup Onions Diced
- 1/2 Cup French Beans Cut to 1" pieces
- 1/2 Cup Carrots Cut into 1" Cubes
- 3/4 Cup Bell Peppers Green works best
- 1/4 Cup Edamame Shelled
- 1/4 Cup Peas Shelled
- 1/4 Cup Potatoes Diced to 1" pieces
- 1 Teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt Or to taste
- 1/4 Cup Tamarind Juice Soak small ball of Tamarind and extract juice
- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Ghee Use Coconut Oil if Vegan
- 1/4 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1/8 Teaspoon Hing Asafetida
- 2 Tablespoon Curry Leaves De-stemmed
- 2 Tablespoon Cashew Nuts
- Wash and soak brown rice for 30 minutes. If using white rice, there is no need to soak. Cook rice in a rice cooker or over the stove top. Wash and soak toor dal for 30 mins. Pressure cook using a pressure cooker or the Instant Pot (IP). Mash it well and set aside.
- Turn IP to Sauté mode and add coconut oil. Once heated, add onions and sauté until translucent. Follow the same directions if making in a thick-bottom dish on the stove top.
- Add carrots and green beans and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add potatoes, edamame and peas and sauté for another 2 minutes
- Add green bell peppers and mix for 2 minutes
- Add mashed toor dal. Add 3 cups of water. Mix well.
- Add Bisi Bele Baath masala powder, salt and mix.
- Extract juice from one small golf size ball tamarind and add the juice. Allow the entire contents to come to a gentle rolling boil.
- Add the cooked rice and mix it all in
- Heat ghee in a small pan. You can use coconut oil, but it won't taste like the original. Splutter mustard seeds and hing (asafetida). Add curry leaves, followed by cashew nuts. Sauté cashew nuts on low heat until they turn light brown.
- Add the tempering to the Bisi Bele Baath, mix well once more time.
- Serve hot with raita or papad