Bisi Bele Bath cooked the traditional way is delicious! It’s also somewhat laborious to make. One has to cook rice, dal (lentils), and vegetables separately until they are each the right texture, and then combine them with care to ensure the rice grains don’t entirely disintegrate, while the lentils are smashed to gooey perfection. Not really a task I’m up for on a weekday morning!
This cheat version strays from the time-honoured recipe in a few ways. 1) All elements are cooked in one go, in a pressure cooker, to save time! 2) It uses broken wheat (dalia) instead of rice – which is slightly healthier, thanks to its higher fiber-to-carb ratio. 3) You will need a pre-ground spice mix (Bisi Bele Bath) masala to prepare this dish. I use the MTR brand packaged version. On occasion, I’ve also substituted Sambhar powder for Bisi Bele Bath Masala (not the same, but still turns out good!)
Traditionally, Bisi Bele Bath is made without onions, ginger or garlic. I include these for added flavor, but feel free not to. Admittedly, nothing tops grandma’s version, made patiently with a whole lot of love; this 30 minute version comes quite close though, and is a spuer kick-start on a cloudy morning!
[For the uninitiated, Bisi = Hot, Bele = Dal/Lentils, Bath = Rice]
Recipe: 30 Minute Cheat Bisi Bele Bath
- A pressure cooker
- A small frying pan / tadka pan for the tempering
To cook the Bath
- 1 tbs Oil
- 0.5 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 0.5 tsp Hing / Asafoetida
- 0.5 tsp crushed Ginger [optional]
- 0.5 tsp crushed Garlic [optional]
- 1 Onion [optional]
- 2 Tomatoes [chopped]
- 2 Green Chilies [slit]
- 0.25 cup Coriander Leaves [chopped]
- 0.5 cup Toor Dal / Split Pigeon Peas
- 0.25 cup Dalia / Broken Wheat
- 1 Carrot [chopped]
- 10 – 12 Green Beans / French Beans [cut into 1-inch-long pieces]
- 1 small Capsicum / Green Bell Pepper [chopped]
- 2 tsp Bisi Bele Bath Masala / Spice Mix [Alternate: Sambhar Powder OR a mix of equal parts Chili, Coriander, Cumin and Garam Masala]
- 0.25 tsp Haldi / Turmeric Powder
- a 2-inch-sized piece Tamarind [soaked in 1/3rd cup of hot water]
- 3 cups Water [recently boiled]
For the Tempering
- 1 tbs Ghee
- 0.5 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 10 – 12 Curry Leaves
- 6 Dried Red Chilies
- 10 Cashew Nuts [split]
- Start by washing and soaking half a cup of toor dal in 1.5 cups of water. Giving the dal even about 15 mins of soaking time, will soften the grains and reduce your overall cooking time. Also wash a quarter cup of dalia.
- Bring about 3.5 cups of water to the boil in a saucepan, and remove from the heat. Place the tamarind in a small bowl and pour 1/3rd cup of hot water over the pulp (or enough to make sure its immersed)
- Next chop / slice the ginger, garlic, onion, tomatoes, coriander and mixed vegetables as indicated in the ingredients table. The carrots, green beans and capsicum can be replaced by other vegetables of your choosing; just make sure you have about a cup and a half of chopped vegetables in total.
- Heat a tbs of oil in a pressure cooker; once hot, add 0.5 tsp of mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Next, turn the heat down to minimum and add the Hing / Asafoetida, crushed ginger and garlic. Allow this to cook until the garlic goes crisp around the edges (barely 30 seconds).
- Add the curry leaves and onions to the cooker; stir fry on medium heat until the onions go translucent. Next, add the chopped tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and cook until they soften.
- Add the turmeric powder and Bisi Bele Bath masala1 to the tomatoes; stir for 30 seconds so that the spices cook. Toss the chopped mix veggies in and continue to stir fry for a minute.
- Now add the dal and dalia to the pressure cooker and stir well to combine with the vegetables. Add 3 cups of recently boiled water to the cooker, secure the lid and cook for 6 – 7 whistles (roughly 10 mins). Turn the heat off.
- Massage the tamarind pulp with your fingers to form a thick extract. Remove any seeds or fiber. Once the pressure has completely released, open the pressure cooker and add the tamarind extract. Stir and allow to simmer2 on low heat while you prepare the tempering.
- To make the tempering: Heat a tbs of ghee in a small pan and add half a tsp of mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the split cashew nuts and stir fry till golden. Add the dried red chilies and curry leaves to the ghee and fry until they being to crisp. Pour the tempering into the simmering bisi bele bath and turn the heat off.
- Finally, add a quarter cup of chopped coriander leaves to the bath and stir well. Serve with boondi / potato crisps on the side.
1If you really can’t find both Bisi Bele Bath Masala or Sambhar Masala, you could substitute a quarter tsp each of chili powder, ground coriander seed powder, cumin powder and fenugreek seeds. Make sure to add the fenugreek seeds along with the ginger and garlic as it needs to roast in the oil for a bit. The other powders can be added after the tomatoes.
2Different pressure cookers take longer / less time to cook the same ingredients. If you aren’t sure how long yours takes to cook dal, begin with 4 whistles (7 – 8 minutes) and check if done; if not done, cook for a few more minutes. If you find that there’s too much liquid when you open up the pressure cooker, allow the bath to simmer a little longer before adding the tempering, so that the excess liquid evaporates.
Let me know in the comments below if you experiment with this recipe. I hope that Bisi Bele Bath makes it to your list of breakfast regulars! 🖖