For me, steaming bisi bele bhaat is synonymous with Bangalore. I learnt to love it – and make it – after I started living in Bangalore. It is one of my favourite comfort foods now, and a great one-pot-meal that is easy to make and healthy as well. I used to make it the traditional way, using rice, till recently, when one of my aunts showed me how to use dalia (broken wheat) instead in making it. The dalia makes the dish all the more healthy.
Here is the recipe that I use:
Ingredients (for 2 people):
1 cup of vegetables – chopped (I use green peas, french beans, carrot and cauliflower. You can add any other vegetables of your choice to this)
Salt to taste
2 medium-sized tomatoes (chopped finely)
1 medium-sized onion (chopped finely)
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
Jaggery to taste (powdered)
About 2 teaspoons of oil
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
3/4 glass dalia (broken wheat)
1/4 to 1/2 glass of toor dal
Bisi bele masala to taste (I use MTR bisi bele bhaat masala. Alternatively, you can make your own spice powder – dry roast 2 cinnamon sticks, 3-4 dry red chillies, 2 tablespoons of chana dal, 1 teaspoon of jeera, and grind all of this into a powder.)
Red chilli powder to taste
Turmeric powder to taste
2 teaspoons of garam masala (optional)
A few curry leaves
1. Boil the dalia and the toor dal separately in a pressure cooker. Give them about 6 whistles. Mash the dal and the dalia well. Keep aside.
2. Boil the chopped vegetables with a bit of salt. Ensure that the vegetables do not turn too mushy – keep them a little hard. Keep aside.
3. Soak the tamarind in a little warm water. Extract the juice out of the tamarind, adding extra water if necessary. Keep aside.
4. In a deep-bottomed vessel, heat a little oil and add the chopped onions. Cook till they get brown.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the vessel, and cook till they turn mushy.
6. Add the tamarind water, salt, turmeric and red chilli powder to taste to the vessel. Cook till the raw smell of the tamarind disappears.
5. Add the boiled vegetables to the tamarind water and the jaggery. Let it cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables absorb the juices of the tamarind.
6. Add the curry leaves, asafoetida, bisi bele bhaat powder, garam masala (if using), the toor dal and the dalia, along with the required amount of water. (I like my bisi bele bhaat a little runny, so I add a lot of water.) Mix well. Let everything cook together for about 15 minutes, or till all the ingredients are nicely incorporated. Check and adjust spices.
7. In another pan, heat a little oil and add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Add the mustard seeds to the dalia-toor dal mixture. Mix well. Take off heat.
8. Serve hot with onion raita or plain curd. Banana or potato chips and vadaam are also great accompaniments to this dish.