Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bisibelebhath / Spicy Rice and lentil stew

I am a pretty open minded cook. Don't you agree? I am always ready to experiment and try out new things.
But, there are couple of dishes I will never ever play around with. One of them is this dish. People use lot of tricks to make it quicker like using pressure cooker or cooking rice and dal together. But not me. I follow the same method that my mother followed all her life and I have been making it this way for more than 10 years now. You could use the store bought bisibelebhath powder if you wish, but the taste will not be the same. One of the readers requested for this recipe few weeks back. I made it finally and here is something that is from a kannadiga (People who are from the state of Karnataka in India are called like that) home.

One year back -  Whole Wheat Bread
All ingredients are measured in standard measuring cups and spoons.
(Serves about 10 - 12 with another main dish)
Rice - 2 cups (Sona masoori or long grain rice. Don't use basmati)
Toor Dal /Split pigeon peas - 1 cup (See Notes)
Tamarind - a lemon size soaked in enough water and juice extracted multiple times
Salt - to taste
Turmeric - two generous pinches
Oil - 1 tsp

For the masala:
Chana dal / Bengal gram dal/ split chikpea - 5 TBSP
Urad dal / Black gram dal - 2 TBSP
Coriander seeds - 1/4 cup or 4 TBSP
Red chillies - 20 - 25 per taste (I use 1/3 of byadagi to get color and rest regular chillies)
Fenugreek seeds / methi seeds - 2 tsp
Cumin seeds / Jeera - 1 tsp
Black pepper corns - 2 tsp
Cardamom - 1 whole
Cinnamon - 2 sticks of 4" each or equivalent
Cloves - 10
Mace / Patre or Japatre in kannada - 4 - 5 blades
Nutmeg / Jakayi in kannada - quarter pea size (I used a big pinch of the powder since that is what I had)
Poppy seeds - 2 tsp
Dry coconut / Kobbari - 1/2 of one medium size or about 1 generous cup of gratings
Oil - 1 tsp

For tempering:
Oil - 1/2 cup (yes, no typo here. you can actually use more than this)
Mustard seeds - 1 TBSP
Peanuts - 1/2 cup or more
Red chillies - 2 broken
Curry leaves - couple of sprigs

In a big vessel, wash and rinse the toor dal / split pigeon peas. Fill it with about 6 cups of water. Add turmeric and oil and start cooking the dal. When it is cooking, start roasting the masala. In a saucepan, take all the ingredients mentioned in the 'For the masala' section except for nutmeg powder if using and poppy seeds. If you are using a chunk of the whole nutmeg, you can add that one too. Keep the flame to medium and keep stirring and roast them till you get a nice golden color on dals and the rest of the spices are toasted. Just before turning it off, add poppy seeds and nutmeg powder and stir for couple more seconds. Set aside to cool.

Now soak the rice in enough water. Take the spices you have toasted in a blender or a mixie jar and powder it finely. Add the dry coconut gratings and continue to blend. Add the tamarind water that you have extracted to make a fine but not too thick paste of the masala. When the dal is cooked but not mushy, add salt, the masala paste and stir. Add the remaining tamarind water you have extracted. Add enough water to make it thin like sambar/soup. You need about 10 cups of sambar or even more to cook the 2 cups of rice you have soaked in water. When it starts boiling, check for the seasonings and adjust if necessary. Rinse and drain the water from rice. Add rice to the boiling dal and spice mixture and keep stirring it. Whatever you do, don't leave the pot unattended. It will stick in no time and burn. When the rice is cooked, lower the flame and prepare for tempering.
In a saucepan, heat oil mentioned in 'For tempering' section. When hot, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add red chillies, curry leaves and peanuts. When peanuts are toasted, add the whole mixture to the pot of rice and dal. Stir. Adjust the liquid if necessary. You can add some warm water to make it thin. When you ladle the bisibelebhath that you just finished cooking on to a plate, it should flow and cover the whole plate. It should be that thin. It gets thick within an hour of making. Serve with mixture or chips or any other fried condiment.

You can use 1:1 ratio of dal and rice. Many people do that. I prefer this since I am used to my mother's ratio. Many people add vegetables like peas, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and onions. Authentic recipe doesn't have it and I don't add them most of the times. I do add some veggies to it once in a while but never onions and tomatoes. Many people use fresh coconut instead of dry coconut. It is alright to do so if you can't get hold of dry coconut. You could use tamarind paste instead of extracting juice from tamarind yourself. In that case, use about 1 heaping TBSP of it.

I am sending this as an entry to Susan's MLLA-36 which is hosted by Aqua this month.

Enjoy. Pin It


  1. My fav anytime....looks and sounds delicious

  2. Delicious rice. My all time favorite :) Your clicks are so aesthetic. :)

  3. Never prepare BBB on the stove top..always a pressure cooker and the masala is also very different than what you mentioned!!

  4. your clicks are always so very rightly capture the mood and the essence of the food. a comfort food indeed.

  5. I have to bookmark it, looks awesome, I love your earthern pot presentation !!!

  6. Sharmilee, Thanks.
    Nithya,Sayantani, I am a struggling beginner in food photography. Your words made my day.
    Priya, Thanks. Guess how much I spent on them.
    You should try the stove top method once. It takes a long time agreed, but it is so well worth it. It just feels different in the mouth.

  7. Looks delicious.. Nice pot :)

  8. Seriously am drooling over that bowl, makes me hungry..incredible rice ....great clicks..

  9. great clicks champa... i dont know how you get the energy to set up everything and take them pictures!:)

    -Richa @ Hobby And More Blog
    Hobby And More on Facebook

  10. My comforting food, seriously makes me hungry..

  11. Its a heart winning recipe all time..looks delicious

  12. i really loved the picture..very nice..

  13. I've been following you on Facebook for quite a while and love love all your photos.
    Although I'm into Indian spices, I love to eat if someone else cooks, just wanted to say your photos are amazing.
    Thanks you for sharing them with me, can't wait to see some more.

  14. Have had this during my stay at Blore. Nice presentation!

  15. Very nice pic....liked the pot and the elephant a lot.

  16. its been a while i preapared it i love it with potato chps :) loved your chota matka.very cute

  17. Thanks everyone for the comments.
    A photo compliment from you? Thanks. Means a lot. I am learning the alphabets of photography yet.

  18. I love BBB I m craving for it..:)

  19. tats a very unique version of BB sounds so interesting...very nice presentation n looks more made me hungry now :) mmmmm

  20. Love the way you made....authentic and beautiful!!

  21. I really loved the pics and the recipes here.

    Following you.

  22. Lovely, authentic version of this !! And yes, most of Kannadigas (incl me!) use the mom's version thoroughly ;)

    Lovely clicks !!

    Event: One Pot Meals

  23. Beautiful pictures..will go through the masala part again..

  24. Great authentic recipe with authentic utensils! You are amazing.

  25. Hi Champa, I made it recently with very few tweaks since it was a working day. It was very good. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    Take care


If you have a question and you leave it as a comment, I'll surely answer the question to the best of my knowledge. Thanks for visiting.