Friday, October 9, 2009

Shilpa Akka's Bisi Bele Bath

If you're from Karnataka, chances are you've eaten this signature Kannadiga dish at least once. Bisi Bele Bath, literally translates to Bisi - hot, Bele - is toor dal, a lentil and Bath is a generic name given to seasoned rice in Southern India. It's a one pot meal which incorporates rice, lentils, vegetables and is seasoned generously with what've guessed it Bisi Bele Bath powder.


And for those of you who thought it translated to a hot shower with lentils floating around. You are so wrong.....

After typing Bisi Bele Bath for the umpteenth time, I'm switching to the way I've seen some college and school canteens address this dish - BBB or "B cube". "C squared B" is short for Chow Chow Bath, which is not a bath at all! How groovy!

You'll often hear the manager sitting at the token sale counter scream right across the canteen in a loud voice, "Illi ondhu B cube mathu yeradu C squared B kodi......". When translated to English - he's just placing an order of Bisi Bele bath and two orders of Chow Chow Bath . Before this turns into a post about Kannada or amateurish Algebra, let's move onto the recipe.

There are many versions of BBB powder and MTR makes a pretty darn good one. But freshly ground masala - bearing your stamp of authenticity triumphs over opening a pack of store bought powder, any day! This recipe was passed onto me by my sister- in -law and she makes a killer BBB. It comes very close to the versions I've had as Prasada at temples and also to the one that Kadambam used to make. I cannot thank her enough for sharing this recipe with me!


If you like BBB - give this recipe a try. A little more work than snipping open a packet of MTR BBB powder but well worth the effort. This is a great dish to make if you're inviting guests who love South Indian Food as it goes a little deeper than the ubiquitous idlis, dosas and vadas. Tastes delicious with happala or potato chips. I'm not sure if pacchadi on the side is authentic but I love it. Makes for a wonderful soothing side and offers you a welcome respite from the spicy rice.

This is a simple and satisfying one pot meal. If you're short on time, by all means go ahead and substitute a store bought powder. Drop me a line if you have any questions or feedback!



Difficulty level - Moderate
Serves - 4
Time - 1 hr 15 mins


1 cup toor dal
1 cup rice
2 cups mixed vegetable chunks ( carrots,french beans, potatoes, peas, double beans, green bell pepper/capsicum)
1/2 cup sambar onions/shallots or 1 big red onion cut into cubes
3 tbsp Bisi Bele Bath powder/pudi - recipe follows
2 tsp tamarind extract
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing
15 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
4 red chillies broken into halves
10 cashew nuts
4 tbsps ghee

For the BBB masala powder or pudi -

1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp jeera/cumin seeds
A scant 1/2 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
10 - 15 red chillies
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp poppy seeds/khus khus
3 1/2" cinnamon sticks
6 - 8 cloves
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp chana dal
1/2 tsp oil


To make the masala powder -

Take a heavy bottomed pan and on a very very low flame roast the listed ingredients in the said order using very few drops of oil. Adding too much oil will make the powder greasy and lumpy. Alternatively you can also dry roast.
First roast the poppy seeds - do not brown but just roast enough until they give off an aroma. Remove onto a plate. Next goes the jeera, peppercorns, mustard, methi and dhania seeds. Keep aside. Then fry the red chillies, do not blacken them. Roast the channa dal,cinnamon and cloves.
Remember to never turn up the heat as this would make the powder dark and very strong in odor. You just want to gently roast the ingredients on a very low flame.

When grinding the roasted spices to a powder, start with the poppy seeds first as they are difficult to grind because they are so tiny. Then add the rest of the ingredients and grind to a fine powder. Don't remove the lid of the grinder - you want to trap all the aromas until it's time to use the spice mix.

For the Bisi Bele Bath -

1)Wash and soak the rice and dal separately for 20 mins.
2)Pressure cook the rice and dal in separate containers until the cooker gives off one whistle. Continue to cook after lowering the flame for an additional 5 mins. Switch off.
3)Take a thick bottomed large pan or cooker which can easily hold the BBB as it tends to get voluminous. Heat 2 tsp of ghee. Add the vegetable chunks and the onions, salt, hing and turmeric powder and saute for 2 mins. Add a little water and 3 tbsp of the prepared powder. Cover and cook until the veggies are slightly soft.
4)Add the cooked rice an dal. Add tamarind extract and salt to taste. Mix well so the seasoning is uniformly distributed. Add sufficient water to get a slightly flowing consistency. Similar to the consistency of khichdi or risotto.Cook for another 5 - 10 mins and let the flavors meld together.
There is no hard and fast rule here. You can add more or less tamarind extract, BBB powder and water to get it to taste exactly the way you want it to.
5)Finally for the vogarane/tadka - Heat 4 tbsps of ghee(use more if you like!) add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chillies and cashews fry until they give off an aroma and the cashews are golden brown in color. Pour onto the hot rice.
6)Serve immediately with potato chips or happala.


  1. Real comfort food, such a droolworthy dish...Feel like finishing that bowl..

  2. perfect. I am hungry all over now..hehe. Great Click.

  3. delicious....just like restaurant food!

  4. yummy!bisibele bath is our favourite with fried papad.

  5. Ah such a bliss eating BBB and potato chips :) Look perfect!

  6. This is a favourite of The Spouse's. Was resigning myself to have to make it from scratch when I remembered I'd bought a ready mix (something I v v rarely do) pack a while ago, and it was a breeze. It was nice, too, for a change - usually ready-mixes don't have any taste, in my experience.

  7. Lovely blog you have here. I have shared the "Over-the-top Blog" award with you. Please collect it from my blog. It also has funfilled meme. Congrats.

  8. Beautiful, enticing photos. Looks so very comforting and delicious. I get all giddy when I see the long list of spices needed for many Indian dishes. I just love Indian food, and more than the typical fare found in most restaurants.

  9. Wow...I really love this delectable that creamy medley of dal and rice with aromatic seasoning......i tasted this at hotels and friend's house..but never dared to try this at home...mouth watering pics...

  10. Wow...the dish looks so tempting...I usually add MTR mix when making BBB...should try out your recipe soon...looks soo good :)

  11. That look comforting and inviting.

  12. Looks delicious...makes me hungry already..

    Nice click too!:)

  13. It looks great and I love to make it. Any idea if there's an online resource for some of these ingredients? Lovely post.

  14. looks delicious!
    do visit my blog when u find time!

  15. El,
    I missed reading your question!
    I've never tried ordering spices online. But I'm sure a lot of people do...... I think your best bet may be Amazon. :)
    If you have a neighborhood Indian grocery store, they should have all of these ingredients stocked.
    Hope this helps!

  16. awesome photography!!...loved ur recipe!

  17. This blog is absolutely amazing!!! i really liked, i think all the information contained in this blog are very useful and very interesting. i really enjoyed reading. i am very curious for everything, usually i want to know new things. this is the reason why i like to know

    buy viagra

  18. First time here...loved ur recipe which seems perfect...the usual ready to use masalas make a good sambhar rice rather than BBB....was loyal to MTR when i had make in smaller quantities but these days even MTR has failed to give that unique aromatic BBB