Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bisibela Bath

S and I host potluck parties now and then, and it’s surprising how most of the times I end up making Bisibelebath. This is a fancy, dressed up version of sambar rice with all the additional spices that go right into making it an all-time favourite. I follow Mum’s recipe and it is always a big hit – vanishes without a trace. And even if there are leftovers, you’ll realise how delicious this tastes the next day.

Traditionally, this is a rather bland dish but S and I prefer it a little bumped up with spice and that’s how I always make it. After all, you’re devouring it with raita! I’m so used to making this dish in large quantities that the following portions serve 10 or more.

Here’s what you’ll need to dish up this killer:
1. Mixed vegetables – shallots, drumsticks, potatoes, capsicum, carrot, big onions, tomatoes, beans, green peas, etc.

2. Whole Masalas – 1 tsp Fennel seeds, 2 Cloves, 1 inch piece Cinnamon, 1 Bay Leaf, 2 Cardamoms, 1 tsp Cumin, 1 Star Anise, 1 tsp Cous Cous, 1 Marati Mokku, Dhania, 5 Dry Red Chili

3. 2 tsp Chana Dal, ½ tsp Urad Dal, ½ tsp Fenugreek seeds

4. 1 inch piece of ginger, 5-6 cloves of garlic, lemon sized ball of tamarind, half a coconut - grated.

5. 2 and ½ teaspoons sambar powder

6. 2 cups cooked rice

7. Toor Dhal – 2 cups, pressure cooked

8. Ghee, Peanuts, Cashew nuts, Curry leaves, Cilantro

Here’s how you dish this up:
1. Pressure cook the rice and toor dal separately. This dish consumes a bit more of toor dal than regular sambar does. The rice must be nicely cooked, almost mashed up like we do for Pongal.

2. Peel the shallots and cut all the vegetables (except onions and tomatoes) into bite sized chunks.

3. Cook the vegetables in tamarind water with salt, sambar powder, turmeric.

4. Meanwhile, sauté the big onions (1 big and 1 small sized), garlic, ginger, tomatoes (3 small sized ones) whole masalas, red chili, the chana and urad dal, fenugreek seeds, one after the other till it turns aromatic. Grind this together along with coconut.

5. Meanwhile, when the raw odour from the tamarind disappears and the vegetables are cooked, add the mashed toor dal and the ground masala paste. At this stage, the gravy begins thickening, so if needed, add water to prevent scorching and continue cooking. You won’t need extra water if you’ve already added enough with the tamarind.

6. When the gravy boils well and gives a nice fragrance, add a couple of spoons of ghee. Temper with curry leaves, mustard, jeera, and cashews and peanuts.

7. Lower the heat, and gradually begin adding the cooked rice. The gravy will not take in too much rice. This dish has a tendency to thicken in time, so make sure you stop adding rice when the consistency is right.

8. Drizzle some ghee finally. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with Kara Bhoondi and raita.

Bisibelebath is probably the most tedious dish I’ve cooked in large quantities - what with all the peeling and chopping. But the end result is always motivation enough to make it another time. Lip smacking delicious!

Note: If you want the dish to be bland, you can bring down the chilis to 3. At a later stage, if you want to make it spicy, you may sauté some chili powder in ghee and add it to the gravy.


  1. It def looks yummy. I make it very differently. I make the Bisi bela powder for the dish plus....i make it using Moong Dal. And my method is very easy and not so tedious. Will give you my recipe too for you to try :)

  2. Oh yeah, I have heard of the powder version too, but in a way grinding them with the onions and ginger garlic gets the flavour out. I haven't heard of the moong dal bit though. This is mom's recipe and it turns out just like how she used to make it for us, truly delicious :) Share your recipe as well.

  3. in Authentic kannadiga recipe also they use thoor dal and rice (infact they will boil both together) but those orthodox houses they dont use onions or garlic or other masalas they wl use some of the masalas like elaichy etc. this is an altered or rather upgraded version of that recipe which i got from my very good friend from my saudi days( she inturn said got this from her kannadiga friend) and, the onion(esp shallot variety) and the ground paste of onion garlic etc with the masalas give that distinctive flavour and taste. As rums mentioned , when they devour the dish then it feels worth the painfully long process.:)

    I have never read the easier version of this recipe, so i am really eager to see yours now:). Lets get that and i wltry it out:)bisibela masala podi i have seen pple mentioning in many cookery shows too