Thursday, January 8, 2015

bisibele bhath : the southern khichdi we loved even in the simplest way

Bisibele bhath recipe used to feel very complicated whenever I saw it on other blogs or when friends explained it to me. Roasting a lot of spices separately, powdering them and then cooking a few more things separately to mix them all together to make a khichdi that tastes divine, that was my impression of Bisi bele bhath or BBB as it is called by BBB admirers. Yes Bisibele bhath has admirers, you realise when you talk about it to someone who has grown up eating this. I used to feel really out of place even though I love everything that looks like khichdi, be it our bhuni khichdi, mung ki khichdi or risotto, the firangi khichdi. Even Haleem that we love so much.

Bisi bele bhath is no less than Haleem mind you. The dark beauty it is, packed with flavours that makes the meal deeply satisfying and worth admiring too. And this was a short cut recipe that my friend Nirupama typed for me in a hurry one night so I could make a decent Bisi bele bhath with the fresh Pigeon pea lentils she had packed for me during my Hyderabad visit 2 weeks ago.

Yes we were in Hyderabad for a week and experienced harvesting, cooking and eating a farm to table meal along with other things one does in a city seeped with history and old world charm. I met a few dear friends, made a few new friends and brought back some really good stuff home. I bought pickles and kalamkari fabric and my friend Nirupama packed some more foodie gits for me, one of the gifts was this bag of fresh pigeon peas that they call Kandulu in Telugu, Thuvaram in Tamil and Arhar phalli or Tuvar phalli in Hindi. I was amazed to see heaps of this lentil being sold on roadsides towards airport along with seasonal fruits, mainly papaya, oranges and pomegranate.

We never get to see this arhar ki phalli in north Indian markets, fresh green peas are very common during this season and hara chana (fresh green garbanzo) also starts coming but just imagine if we get fresh pods of all the lentils we grow. I think I will use one or the other fresh beans everyday in my cooking.

Fresh Pigeon peas are also called Toor lilva and is used extensively in Marathi and Gujrati cuisines. Some day I will cook all of those things for sure. A proper Undhiyo has been on my list for ever although I have cooked lame versions of Undhiyo a few times.

We had enjoyed this fresh Pigeon peas at Aiyor Bai farm by just boiling them in salted water and snacking on them warm. But this was the first time I was eating these lentils fresh and I wanted to experiment more.

Nirupama recommended the Bisi bele bhath, typed a recipe for me and I mustered the courage to make it for the first time. The divine tasting BBB did not disappoint me even though it was a simplified recipe that Nirupama told me so I could manage to make a decent one.

(2 meal portions with some yogurt and papad on the side)

white short grain rice (or broken basmati) 1/4 cup
fresh pigeon peas 1 cup
dry grated or desiccated coconut 2 tbsp
whole coriander seeds 1 tbsp
2-3 Bedgi chillies broken
cinnamon stick 1 inch broken
sambhar powder (ready made from a packet) 1 tbsp
cashew nuts 2-3 tbsp
diced onions 1/2 cup
curry patta 2-3 tbsp
mustard seeds 1 tsp
hing 1 pinch
ghee 1 tbsp

chopped vegetables in bite sized pieces 2-3 cups (I used carrots, cauliflowers and brinjal)

tamarind extract to taste ( I boiled 1 tbsp worth of tamarind with a cup of water, mashed when cool, filtered and added the watery extract to BBB)


Boil the fresh pigeon peas along with a cup of water and salt to taste in pressure cooker. About 5-8 minutes under pressure (after the first whistle blows). Cool down, open the cooker, add the chopped vegetables and simmer till the vegetables are soft. Add some water if required.

Cook the rice with a cup of water till done. The rice will be watery even after cooking but this is intended.

In the meanwhile, dry roast the broken chillies, cinnamon, whole coriander seeds and the coconut together till they all become a little dark and aromatic. Add the desiccated coconut later if using, grated coconut can be roasted along with everything else. Add sambhar powder in the end and switch off the gas so the powder gets roasted in residual heat. Let them all cool down. Then make a coarse powder and keep aside.

In the same pan, pour ghee and tip in mustard and hing. Let them crackle before adding cashew nuts and fry them till pinkish brown. Add the onions and curry patta and fry till translucent.

Mix the powdered mix with the fried mix and stir well.

Add this mixture to the cooked lentils and rice together, add the tamarind extract, adjust seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes till everything comes together.

The resultant dish will be very aromatic by now. Fry or roast some papad and lay the table. You can't wait for long once the Bisi bele bhath is ready.

I had fried alu ka papad which is a Banaras specialty and a vadi made with puffed rice called Aralu sandige that Nirupama had packed for me. Such meals are enjoyed with extended family most.

I always feel we love such flavours best when there are more people around. People you have grown up with, have made memories together and have eyed the the last yummiest morsels of food from the table together.

Bisi bele bhath will be licked clean by the end of the meal no matter how much you serve. Even this short cut recipe thanks to Nirupama is a keeper and I will be cooking this version a lot. But I will be making the elaborate version of Bisi bele bhath very soon.

Feeling encouraged by the first success of my Bisi bele Bhath.


  1. The recipe I got from my mil is more elaborate and yes I do make the complete powder from scratch or use the one supplied by my mil's sister who lives in Bangalore. Normally, we use toor daal but fresh toor is a good substitute. It surely is yummy but you need to add loads of ghee to enjoy the authentic taste. Serve it with veg raita and some boondi or mixture as it is traditionally done in Karnataka.

    1. Thank you for the suggestions Rachna. I am definitely going to try the elaborate recipe soon. Bugged by the BBB bug already ;-)

  2. Very Interesting Recipe and TFS about the RM (PigeonPeas )! Will put this on my " Tasting Wishlist ".

    1. Thanks ajalji.
      But I really did not get what TFS and RM is :-)

  3. French beans, potato chunks and carrot go very well with it. I add little bit of tomato too to the onions fry .

    1. Now I am trying Bisi be bhath with all the usual add-ons for sure Kirti :-)

  4. Sangeeta, you even get MTR BBB masala in the mkt and it gives a bit diff taste than usual sambhar powder.