Bisibelebath: food and emotion

Rice and dal(lentils) mingling oh so gently with each other but emerging into a fiery romance of flavors when emboldened with a coarse crumb of roasted spices. The barrage of vegetables ensues a flawless texture. Oodles of melted ghee lends it a dash of oomph. Forgive me for this dramatization but this blessed dish has inadvertently transpired into an emotion and a delicious one at that. I humbly present to you, Karnataka’s pride and joy, the Bisibelebath.
The affair began years ago. Amid 3 inch candles, an ornate cake, a ceiling masked by balloons & a slightly untuned rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ , my maternal aunt and her kin unfailingly ensured that their guests returned home content and happy. Cake hardly disappoints but this sweet treat was always trivial in comparison to the pièce de résistance of the said series of evenings aka,  The Bisibelebath. Melted Ghee was poured over a sizzling plate housing the above dish and spicy potato chips tossed in chilli powder (that we bangaloreans fondly call ‘khara chips’) were nestled on the side.

My aunt, who I believe, possesses sorcery in her hands shared her wisdom with me when I was still at the brink of falling in love with cooking. It boasted of the perfect blend of spicy, tangy and sweet. I was a college-goer then and I spent weekends pampering the family with this dish. Years later, this delicacy continues to further boost festive occasions and spruce up mundane afternoons.
When my aunt first taught me how to make this dish, she didn’t measure ingredients with a measuring cup or a weighing scale. “3 hiDi’s of Dhaniya”, she explained. “HiDi in kannada translates to the amount of ingredient that one can grip within the fist. And that is exactly how I continue to measure the ingredients to this day. Of course, worry not,  below in the recipe, they’re measured with cups and teaspoons:)

A little about the dish sans the above indulged dramatization. In the Kannada language, Bisi means Hot, Bele means dal(lentils) and bath refers to a rice based dish. Essentially,  it is rice and dal cooked together with a heaping medley of vegetables and with a spice powder mix (recipe for which I will share with you today ) and tempered with ghee, aromatic curry leaves & peanuts and mustard seeds. A medley of vegetables is mandatory and this can include beans, carrots, pumpkins, bell peppers, tomatoes and a melange of legumes.
Serve it with a cold Raita and/or crunchy sides such as Boondi or spicy potato chips!
Below I share the recipe for the Bisibelebath Powder(the spice mix) and the method to make the Bisibelebath as well. 


For Bisibelebath Powder
Less than 1/4 cup of Urad Dal
Less than 1/2 cup Channa Dal
1/2 cup packed Dhaniya/Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp heaped Methi seeds/Fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp heaped black Peppercorns
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
1 Marathi Moggu
2 Cloves
1″ Dalchini/Cinnamon
25 Byadgi Chillies
5 Guntoor Chillies
1/2 cup dry grated coconut
1 tsp oil

For Bisibelebath
3/4 cup Sona Masuri Rice
3/4 cup Toor Dal/Split pigeon peas
1 cup heaped beans, chopped to 1″ long pieces
1/2 cup carrot , peeled and chopped to 1″ long pieces
1 medium sized capsicum/bell pepper, chopped into cubes
1 tomato, chopped into cubes
3/4 cup of mixed avarekalu(val lilva) and pigeon peas(tuvar lilva)- fresh or frozen(optional ingredient)
1 cup of winter melon- peeled and chopped to 1″ cubes
4 cups water plus extra
A pinch of turmeric
3-4 tsp of oil
1/2 tbsp thick tamarind paste
2 tbsp heaped jaggery, chopped
Salt to taste

For tempering- 
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 tbsp groundnuts
1/2 tsp ghee
12-15 curry leaves

 For the Bisibelebath powder-
-In a thick bottomed kadai/pan, add oil and once it’s heated add all the ingredients for the spice mix except the coconut. On a low flame, fry until the lentils turn golden brown. Pour onto a large plate.
-In the same kadai, fry the coconut until golden brown and put off the stove.
-Let the roasted ingredients cool in room temperature. (do not mix the coconut with the remaining ingredients)
-First, grind the lentil & spices mix into a coarse powder in a mixer. Add coconut into the mixie jar at this point and grind to a fine powder. Mix well with a spoon and the Bisibelebath powder is ready.

2. The first step is to cook the rice, lentils and vegetables. Since each vegetable takes a different amount of time to cook, we deal with them differently.
Pressure cook rice, toor dal, beans, carrot, avarekaLu and togarikaLu, with a pinch of turmeric, a few drops of oil and approx. 4.5 cups of water. Put off the stove after 2 whistles.
3. In a large kadai/deep bottomed dish, add oil and once it’s heated, add the chopped capsicum. Season with salt. Once it’s almost done add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they are soft. For the pumpkin, heat some water in a separate vessel, add salt and cook the pumpkin until softened. It softens fairly quickly, so keep an eye.
4. In a bowl, mix  heaped 1/2 cup of Bisibelebath powder(quantity can be increased if you like it more spicy), tamarind, salt and jaggery with 1 cup of water and add this to the kadai with capsicum and tomato.
5. Next, add the cooked rice-dal-veggies, tamarind, jaggery and salt.Add another cup of water and mix everything together ensuring that the rice and dal is uniformly coated with the spices. On low heat, let the bisibelebath simmer for about 5 -7 minutes, then put off the stove(Add another half cup of water only if the bisibelebath becomes too thick)
6. Make the tempering by heating a tbsp of ghee/clarified butter (or oil) in a small pan /tadka pan. To this add groundnuts, mustard seeds, hing. Let the mustard seeds and groundnuts splutter, then add curry leaves and put off the stove.
7. Add the tempering to the Bisibelebath and mix well. Serve hot.

1.Store the remaining powder at room temperature in an airtight container.
2.Cashews can be used instead of groundnuts for the tempering. But, in this case, fry the cashews in ghee first, remove them from the kadai and then temper the mustard seeds, hing & curry leaves.
3. The consistency of the bisibelebath can vary. Some like this thick while some prefer it to be a little diluted.So the amount of water can vary.


48 thoughts on “Bisibelebath: food and emotion

  1. My mouth is drooling DD with the aromatic Bisi Bele Bath…soaked in the hot dal with lovely veggies…loved the narrative and yes the quantum of things going into the recipe are never measured in cups, tbsp or the like…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Sunitha, so happy to see you here! I missed you! Thank you so much for the kind words…means so much to me coming from you:)
      You’re so right! Most of the time, the measurements are eye balled. My mom is always in a fix as to how to teach me, haha:)


  2. Bisi Belle bath, such an integral part of Karnataka cuisine. It is such a wholesome dish. I loved your description of the same. I am in a dilemma to decide if the dish is better or your delectable description of it 😀. I read it out to my daughter too and has made a request to prepare BBB soon 💝

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Looks delicious and tempting and you have so beautifully described it too. It is one of the favorite dishes down south, but I find the ones we get here, too spicy for my liking.
    Should try this mouth watering recipe soon. Thanks for sharing Divya ☺️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love dal but I am very a basic Indian cook. I am unfamiliar with some of the ingredients you use but I am teaching myself how to use Fenugreek. It seems to be a very temperamental spice and if used incorrectly can make food taste bitter. I will follow your blog because I would love to learn more about how to use Indian spices correctly. I frequently use Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin and Mustard Seed but I am yet to try Asafoetida.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah – so that’s the problem. The right amount must be very small then. I will persevere. I am still learning the basics like how to measure spices and when to add them to dishes. Thanks for the information

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a wonderful description Divya and lovely pics. Its a family fav for us, we call it BBB :).. Your bisibellebath looks soo scrumptious with the boondi and ghee. Such a heavenly dish, I so want to dig in now :).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh! This looks so delicious, Divya! I totally love lentil dishes – even enjoyed one today! – and I’m definitely going to try out your awesome recipe!! And I actually love the way your aunt measured everything using her fist. Hugs! 😊💕

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s always mesmerizing to read your post and narratives! You can cook, you can bake and you can write so well..Recently I also learned that you can paint!! You are blessed with so much creativity Divya! This recipe sounds so cozy and delicious! Daal rice is a regular dinner at my home and this would be a wonderful royal change to that! I wish we stayed closeby..It would have been amazing to learn this Bisibelebath recipe in person from you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re so generous with the compliments, and I’m so humbled🙏 Thank you for the kindest words sweetheart, I’m grateful😘 I would have made this for you if you were here & yes, taught you as well:) Dal rice is such a loved dish … I love it too, this one like you said is a spicy change. Thank you Deepika for taking the time to read and for these lovely words:)


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