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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bisibele Bhath - A Rice Delicacy from Karnataka with a twist

Bisibele bhath is a speciality from Karnataka. It is a rice and dal preparation which is akin to "khichadi" another dal and rice preparation. My mom used to make this recipe when I was a child and I remember not really liking it because it had so many vegetables. She used to serve it with a lot of ghee (clarified butter) though, which used to make it finger licking delicious. Now that I am older and wiser, I understand the beauty of this dish. First, it is a one pot meal. Second, it has all the nutritional components, it has proteins from the lentils/dal, carbohydrates from rice and you can add many vegetables to it which take care of the vitamins and fiber aspect. And best of all, it is all cooked together with yummy spices in one single pressure cooker. It is a perfect dish for that very busy weekday and you can have the satisfaction of serving something healthy and good.

I make it in the fastest way possible and that is what this recipe is about. I use store bought spices. MTR brand's Bisibele Bhath masala is easily available in the Indian store and I generally have a packet of this at home. Next, I cut vegetables that I have on hand if I have time, or I open a pack of frozen mixed vegetables ( generally contains green beans, carrots, peas and corn) and use that. That makes it easy to cook and absolutely delicious too. The twist in this recipe is that I experimented with a new grain instead of rice this time. I replaced the rice entirely with quinoa and make the dish using the exact same method and I must say the result was amazing. If it had been a blind tasting, I couldn't have differentiated between the one made with rice and one made with quinoa. I am thrilled that I have been able to make this dish even healthier. The recipe and method stay exactly the same irrespective of whether you use rice or quinoa. So here goes.

1 tbsp ghee or oil
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
a pinch of asafoetida/hing
7-8 curry leaves
1-2 green or red chillies, to taste
1 onion, diced into small pieces
1 tomato, diced into small pieces
2 cups of frozen vegetables mix (washed) or you can cut fresh vegetables like potato, carrots, green bell pepper, green beans etc. into bite sized pieces
1 cup tur dal/pigeon peas
1 cup rice or quinoa
4-5  tsp bisibele bhath masala
1 tsp tamarind pulp (you can use store bought pulp or make fresh paste)
salt to taste
6 cups water

Mix the dal and rice/quinoa and rinse the mixture 2-3 times with water and set aside.
In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the hing and curry leaves and chillies. Next add the onions and let them cook. Once they start to turn a little brown, add the tomatoes and let this cook till the tomatoes are cooked through. Then add the diced vegetables mix and stir. Let the vegetables fry for a minute and then add the dal and rice/quinoa mixture and mix all the ingredients well. Then add the bisibele bhath masala to this and again mix well so that all the vegetables and grains are coated with the masala. Then add the water, the tamarind paste and salt. Stir once and then close the lid on the pressure cooker and cook it based on how much time it takes to cook tur dal in your cooker. It takes about 3-4 whistles in my cooker. Serve this hot with ghee/clarified butter, accompanied with some raita and chips or papad.

Bisibele bhath when hot is runny and very soft. It thickens as it cools down.
Quinoa is rather small, so when you rinse it, it is difficult to drain the water using your fingers or a colander. So I use a tea strainer to catch the quinoa and drain the water.
To make tamarind paste from tamarind, soak a lime sized ball of tamarind in a little warm water (just enough to cover it). You can even microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Then squeeze out the pulp and use the tamarind. Cut the green chillies lengthwise, so they will be easy to spot and you can remove it later. I generally taste a little bit of the water to determine if I need to add more salt or spices when I make such rice dishes.


  1. looks delicious, and I am sure would taste the same :)

  2. That is very creative on your part to try this out with quinoa. It's indeed more healthy.Will definitely try this recipe and let you know


  3. Thanks AG. It is definitely a very healthy and delicious recipe.