Bisi (Hot) Bele (Lentils) Bath (Rice) needs no introduction to many.  This classic South Indian recipe is home to Karnataka 
(Udupi cuisine to be specific), India and the name this recipe takes is in the Kannada language. With a medley of vegetables, ghee and aromatic spices, it is hard not to taste this. At times, this recipe does not need any fried accompaniment (which is common). Depending on the spice level, this can be a nutritious meal for children as well as a favoured delight for all. In the Tamilian context, this is nearly a Sambar rice. Though the basic recipe is more a standard, umpteen versions in improvements and in preferred tastes exist. This one is from my MIL who spent her early years of her marriage in Bangalore.

I always admire our ancestors for their nutritional awareness. Their knowledge and understanding of the biochemical properties in food was phenomenal. They somehow knew that combining cereals and pulses and legumes in the right proportions met the amino acid requirements of the body and could compete with its meat counterparts. Some classic examples are Ven Pongal, Sarkkarai Pongal, Idli, Dosai, Kichri rice and so on. 

Coming to this, the vegetables that are generally added are shallots, carrots, beans, potatoes, peas, chayotes. People in some parts of Karnataka prefer not adding shallots. Some skip the tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves and instead bathe the finished rice in sizzling hot ghee with roasted cashew nuts. This delicacy is best enjoyed when it is hot and suggestive accompaniments are Appalams, Vadams or Raita. And, the best way to cook this dish is undoubtedly by the open cooking method.  By doing this  you can gauge and monitor from start to finish. Of course, the pressure cooker method has its advantages in terms of time but the aroma and final texture/taste from open cooking method is unparalleled.
Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time: 45 min
Category: Main course
Cuisine: Udupi Cuisine
Difficulty level: Medium
Spice level: Medium/ Spicy
Serves: 3-4
Source: MIL
Nutrition Facts
Servings 4.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 465
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13 g20 %
Saturated Fat 7 g35 %
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 132 mg5 %
Potassium 1108 mg32 %
Total Carbohydrate 75 g25 %
Dietary Fiber 16 g64 %
Sugars 6 g
Protein 17 g35 %
Vitamin A123 %
Vitamin C21 %
Calcium15 %
Iron27 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
Rice and Dhals
  • 1 cup Raw rice rice
  • 3/4th - 1 cup Toor Dhal
  • 10 Shallots, peeled and cut into 2 (optional)
  • 1 Potato peeled  cubed
  • 2 Carrots peeled and cubed
  • 12 French beans cut into 1 inch piece
  • 1/4 cup green peas (fresh or frozen) 
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
Spices and other ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 8-10 black pepper
  • 4-5 dry red chillies
  • 4 Byadagi chillies 
  • 1 tbsp Chana dhal
  • 1/4th tsp Fenugreek (optional)
  • 1/5th tsp Cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1 inch piece Cinnamon
  • 1-2 Kapok buds (Marathi Moggu)
  • 1 tsp Poppy seeds 
  • 2-3 Cloves
  • 1 Cardamom
  • 2 tbsp dry desiccated coconut (Copra) 
  • 2 tsp pounded Jaggery or raw sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • a generous dash of Asafoetida (use less if using Shallots)
  • Tamarind - a Lemon sized ball 
  • 2-3 tbsp Ghee (be generous- The more the merrier)
  • 1 tsp Castor oil
To temper
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 8-10 Cashew nuts (halved) - (optional)
  • Curry leaves and Coriander for garnish (Coriander is optional)
  • Wash and rinse the Dhal well. Wash and soak the rice and set aside.
  • Prepare tamarind extract and set this aside. Boil 5 cups of water and set that aside as well.
  • Heat a thick and big vessel, that can hold all the above ingredients. Add Dal and 2 cups hot water initially. Add turmeric and castor oil and let this cook on a low medium flame.
  • Meanwhile, roast together all the spices in 1 tsp ghee ( use from the 2 tbsp set aside for tempering) leaving just the desiccated coconut. Let a nice aroma waft and turn off the heat.
  • Transfer to a plate and set aside to slightly cool and grind into a fine powder along with coconut. Keep it closed to keep the aroma intact. 
  • Stir the Dhal once and continue cooking. When it is cooked  and almost half done, add the vegetables excluding tomatoes. Add a dash of salt at this point.
  • When the Dhal and vegetables are 3/4th done, add the rice and 2.5 cups of hot water and continue to cook until the entire mixture turns soft and mushy. The vegetables and Dhal should be completely cooked and the vegetables should still hold its shape.
  • Now add tamarind extract and chopped tomatoes and required salt and cook further for ten minutes on medium flame. If required, add 1 more cup of hot water.
  • When the tamarind water and salt have infused and the tomatoes have cooked well, add the spice powder. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps. Wash the plate with 2-3 tbsp water to remove any spice residue sticking to it and pour it into the cooking mixture.
  • Lower the flame to prevent charring and mix well until all the spice is incorporated well. If required, add 1 more cup of hot water as it keeps evaporating.
  • Add jaggery or  raw sugar. Taste the mix and check for salt and spice and add whatever is required.Stir well and turn the heat off.
  • Heat ghee in another pan and roast the cashew nuts. Drain and add it to the rice. Pop mustard seeds in the same pan and finally add curry leaves and pour the ghee and tempered mix into the recipe. Stir once again after 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot with any fried accompaniment and Raita. 
  • The ratio between rice and dhal is generally 1:1. You can decrease the Dhal to 3/4th cup if you prefer. Both work well. 
  • I recommend you not to skip any ingredient that has been listed in the recipe. However, fenugreek and cumin are optional as they tend to give a distinct Sambhar taste.
  • If you prefer a spicier version, increase the number of red chillies and decrease the Byadagi chillies. 
  • Open cooking is slightly different than the pressure cooking method. In this case the water keeps absorbing and evaporating simultaneously during the cooking process. So, be watchful and add hot water whenever required to prevent any charring. Besides, hot water also hastens the cooking process and saves fuel.

“Linking this post to MLLA #113, conceptualized by Susan and hosted by Lisa.”


  1. Super recipe and write up Sowmya

  2. loaded with nutrition...traditional recipes are always superb

  3. Lovely recipe and thanks for sharing with MLLA. xo

  4. This is a classic recipe and one of my favourites. I have never been happy with my pics hence not posted this recipe. Now I think I will try clicking it like you. You are correct cooking bisi bele on open fire has unparalleled taste. Thanks for linking it to MLLA

    1. Thank you Archana. Can't agree more. True that and I am sure you ll get great clicks in future. Just try a different lighting or a brass utensil. Maybe that would give a facelift . Good luck and my pleasure to be participating in MLLA


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