Karnataka is a region in the south end of India. It’s known for a lot of things, but if you’re a food fanatic, you’ve probably heard of bise bele bath more than anything else. This spicy dish involves rice, lentils, and a palate of unique flavors that make it exceptional, even when compared to other Indian dishes.
A Regional Treasure, Recreated Unfaithfully
Before I dive into things too hard, let me be clear: the bise bele bath recipe I present here is not going to be the same as what you’d find on the street in Karnataka. To me, cooking isn’t about recreating someone else’s recipes exactly. Instead, it’s more about finding your own unique take on each dish and making small changes to each recipe to make it your own.
This means that I’ve made a few changes. Nothing too extreme, but some of the vegetables and spices I use and the choices I make in terms of preparation are going to be a bit different than an “authentic” recipe. To me, the result tastes good and is easier to make than some other bisi bele bath recipes you can find on the internet.
A Note On Ingredients
Even with my modifications, bisi bele bath will call for a few things that might not be on your normal shopping list. I’ll try to explain some of the more unusual ingredients when I can. If you have to, you can skip a few of the exotic spices. The dish will taste different, of course, but it’ll still be tasty.
Bisi Bele Bath Recipe
1 cup rice, uncooked
2.5 cups water
1/4 cup peanuts, raw (or cashews)
3/4 cup lentils (“toor dal” is the exact type of lentil you’re looking for, if you have a choice. Green lentils work okay too)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups water
1 cup chopped raw carrot
1 cup green beans, raw
1/2 cup peas
about half of a large eggplant, chopped (the eggplant is super “non-authentic” but it’s present in many recipes from northern India)
1 tbsp tamarind (tamarind is a type of fruit. If you can, try to find the seedless variety. If you can’t, remove the seeds yourself
2 cups water (you’ll need about 1 more cup later)
1/4 tsp salt (and additional salt to taste)
2 tbsp coconut (fresh is ideal, but you can use desiccated coconut too)
3 tbsp bisi bele bath masala (dissove this in 1 cup water before you add it)
3 tbsp melted butter
a few capers (bisi bele bath traditionally uses marathi moggu, which are a type of Indian caper, but those can be pretty hard to find in the States. Substitute a few of the capers you can find or simply omit them entirely)
1 tsp mustard seed
several dried red chilis, to taste (the flakes work too)
about 13 curry leaves
1/4 cup cashews, raw
The easiest way to prepare this dish is to simply prepare all three components separately and mix them at the end. With a bit of creativity, however, you can do it all in one pot.
To make rice:
Rinse rice and peanuts (or cashews) thoroughly. You don’t want the rice to be particularly starchy. Put the rinsed rice and nuts to a large pot and add 2 and 1/2 cups of water and a bit of salt. Let them soak for about a half hour.
Afterwards, bring the pot to a simmer and cook the rice until it’s done. Remove this pot from heat and set aside.
To make lentils:
Rinse your lentils and check for any foreign objects. Add them to the pressure cooker along with turmeric powder and about two cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Let them sit for just a bit longer and then mash them. An immersion blender is perfect here, or even a regular blender.
To make veggies:
Chop the vegetables into fairly small pieces. Add them to a large pan with 2 cups water and plenty of salt. Cook on medium heat until they’re pretty soft, about 20 minutes.
If you haven’t already, return your mashed lentils to the large pot or pressure cooker. Add the rice, peanuts, vegetables, and any water that’s left over in the veggie pan. Gently stir this mixture over low heat.
Masala is a special kind of Indian spice blend. This recipe calls for a pre-made bise bele bath masala. It’s a bit different from other kinds of masala in the exact spice selection. If you can’t find this, any masala will work to create a tasty dish. It won’t be quite as authentic, but many of the spices will be pretty similar.
Combine your masala with about a cup of warm water. Stir well and add to the large pot.Next, add the coconut and mix everything one last time.
Let the pot sit on low heat for about a half hour. You may want to add more water during this process to replace any steam that escapes. You want to make sure that you cook the tamarind and eggplant well and let all of the flavors blend together.
In a small frying pan, heat 3 tbsp melted butter over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the rest of the spices from the “for flavor” section: curry leaves, mustard seed, capers, chilis, and cashews.
Toast this mixture until the cashews are golden brown and the chilis have changed color. When you’re satisfied, pour it into the large pot and stir. Let the whole mixture blend over low heat for five more minutes. Afterwards, you’re all set!
Bisi bele bath goes unnaturally well with tortilla chips, although potato chips or even fries will do in a pinch. If you want to be a bit “healthier,” you can try naan bread instead for another wonderful pairing.
A Great Recipe For Your Kitchen
Bisi bele bath is a bit of work, but it’s totally worth it. This recipe is totally vegetarian and has lots of protein and flavor. It’s a great dish to keep in your pocket for guests with dietary restrictions or whenever you want a unique lentil dish with lots of yummy vegetables. It’s become one of my favorite Indian dishes.
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