Technically, this dish is a kind of khichdi, in that it is made with rice and lentils that are cooked together. But, oh, what a difference to the typical khichdi which is often very lightly – though always fragrantly so -spiced and, when not being served to a baby or an invalid (since it is easily digested), is served with an accompaniment such as kadhi, or a vegetable dish on the side.
Bisi bele bhath, or bisi bele huliyanna – hot lentil sour rice, in the Kannada language – however takes the concept of khichdi to a whole another level, packed as it is with flavor and heat. A generous amount of ghee, tamarind juice, and of course the signature spice mix that makes this dish – the result is a delicious, all-in-one dish that needs no accompaniment except some papad, and maybe some yogurt to balance the heat.
This is Indira’s favorite khichdi, and I’ll always be grateful to my dear friend Harshini for introducing us to this dish soon after we first met Kiran and her in France 17 years ago. Through all these years, the advent of two children, a move back to India and much else that has changed in life, it has remained a family favorite. And I love that Harshini’s version of it is one of those easy, one-pot recipes that I so love!
Bisi Bele Huliyanna
1/2 cup of a small-grain rice variety such as kolam or sona masuri
1/2 cup of arhar daal (pigeon pea lentils)
a handful of green beans, washed and chopped in to 1″ pieces
a 1″ piece of ginger, washed, peeled and grated
2 small tomatoes, washed and chopped in to large-ish chunks
2 medium onions, chopped in to large-ish chunks
3/4 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons of ghee
1 and a 1/2 or 2 tablespoons of thick tamarind pulp (to be prepared by soaking 1 tablespoon of tamarind flesh in some hot water for 30 min or so)
1 level tablespoon of bisi bele bhath powder mix
salt to taste
Wash the rice and daal thoroughly, and soak together – in enough water to allow for the grains to remain covered even after they swell a little – for about 3 hours. Then drain the water, and combine the rice and lentils will all the other ingredients in a pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water, and cook till 4 whistles of the cooker. Let all the steam escape, then open the cooker and carefully turn out the khichdi in to a serving bowl. The consistency to look for is of a really soft, thin rather than thick khichdi (you will be able to move the serving spoon easily through the cooker or serving bowl, sort of like through a smooth and runny porridge).
Serve quite hot, with deep-fried papad. Satisfaction guaranteed.