Make Ahead

Bisi bela

March 22, 2011
4 Ratings
Photo by Panfusine
  • Serves 4-5
Author Notes

This is the flagship rice dish from the Indian state of Karnataka. A piquant spicy blend of rice, legumes & an array of fresh vegetables, the Ultimate one pot dish ( well, almost!), I never use the same set of vegetables twice ( only because,i cant remember what I used the previous time!).
Given that rice & dal are the main ingredients in the dish, and the vegetables, being numerous, do not call for more than one of each type, A rough appraisal puts the cost around a dollar per serving. That combined with the inherent healthy tag, puts this dish in the category of absolute value for money. All you need is a side of crunchy greens for a satisfying dinner!
I adapted my variation from a recipe from a little known Indian book called Vegetarian delicacies by Padma Santhanaraman - Panfusine —Panfusine

Test Kitchen Notes

Panfusine’s Bisi Bela recipe yields a enticingly fragrant and comforting one-dish meal. Coconut adds a nice subtle sweetness to the roasted spices, and the sprouted mung beans add a really lovely, verdant taste and crunch. The pressure cooked rice and lentils (4 minutes on my watch) couldn’t be simpler, and the rest of the recipe comes together quickly and easily if you have your mise en place ready before you start. Consider dollops of this bisi bela, wrapped in crispy lettuce leaves, as a wonderful hand-held hors d’oeuvre at your next dinner party or gathering. - Jennifer Ann —Jennifer Ann

What You'll Need
  • Masala paste
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1 tablespoon split dried garbanzo beans (chana dal)
  • 1 tablespoon split dehusked urad dal
  • 4-5 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1/3 cup frozen Fresh shredded coconut
  • Water as needed
  • The rice dish
  • 1 cup jasmine tai rice
  • 1/2 cup dried pigeon peas (tuvar or arhar dal)
  • 2-3 teaspoons tamarind extract (the lighter colored ones from the glass bottles, not the blackish plastic bottles (tamcon) labelled in yellow)
  • 1 cup sprouted mung bean
  • 1/2 cup split green pea (rehydrated) or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup peeled diced potatoes
  • 5-6 scallions chopped green & white
  • Any other vegetables you can think of (except slimy okra!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Lime wedges
  1. Dry roast all the ingredients for the masala till golden & emitting an aroma. Remove & set aside. Do the same for the shredded coconut, toast till it turns a reddish brown hue.
  2. Combine & grind to a paste using as little water as needed
  3. Wash the rice & dried pigeon peas. Add ~ 3 cups water and cook till the pigeon peas are well cooked & mashed up. A pressure cooker is ideal for this. Set aside
  4. Heat the ghee in a large dutch oven pan, add the mustard, cloves & cinnamon, when the mustard seeds sputter, add the Curry leaves & give a stir.
  5. Add the sprouted mung beans and other vegetables & sautee till slightly soft. For the crunchier root vegetables You may microwave in adequate water till soft, drain & add to the other vegetables.
  6. Add the tamarind paste, turmeric and salt.
  7. cover and cook on a low flame (with a little water if needed) till the vegetables are done.
  8. Add the Masala paste and combine. Cover & cook for ~ 5 minutes.
  9. Add the Rice& lentil mixture, stir well, adding water if needed, lower the heat & let it simmer for 5-7 minutes till all the flavors combine.
  10. Remove from heat, & allow to rest. The rice will thicken up during this time, so don't fret if the mix is watery.
  11. ladle into bowls, garnish with cilantro & lime juice & serve with a side of papad ( or potato chips), or a green salad.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
  • mikedalena
  • boulangere
  • Sagegreen
  • Panfusine
A biomedical engineer/ neuroscientist by training, currently a mommy blogger on a quest for all things food - Indian Palate, Global perspective!

9 Reviews

Annada R. July 3, 2021
The masala looks SO GOOD. I bet it can be used across recipes too like a saucy sabji.
Kalcile July 3, 2021
As a Karnataka native I am disappointed to see you guys could not even get the name of the dish right. It’s Bisi Bele Bath and not bisi bela which does not really make sense. Please get the details right before you actually make a recipe and publish it!
mikedalena May 20, 2017
Why no okra? Do you just not like it or does it do something to the recipe that ruins it? Just curious. I love okra and don't understand if you're instructing to omit it because you don't like it. Please respond. I need to know! 🙃
Panfusine May 20, 2017
just never seen Okra ever used in the recipe ever. (I tend to take potshots at Okra independently, got discouraged from eating the veggie for eternity apparently due to peer pressure from older cousins, when I was a kid)
mikedalena May 20, 2017
LOL! I love okra! Slime and all (slimy is a highly underrated texture says Gail Simmons and I agree). Thanks for the clarity and I hope your cousins get sick on okra for ruining it for you! 🤤
ds November 27, 2013
rubbish recipe!!!! bloody off the mark! leave indian food alone pls!
boulangere February 28, 2013
I recall this well. Thanks for bringing it back to remind me to make it again. Your recipes are always so deep in cultural and culinary information.
Panfusine February 28, 2013
Aww thanks Boulangere!
Sagegreen March 27, 2011
This sounds really nice! If I had the ingredients on hand I would volunteer try this, but I am preparing to leave town and don't have much time available before then.