When it comes to comfort food, most Indians would think of some variety of rice dish – from curd rice to biryanis, we do a lot with rice, however I would argue that the king of all comfort rice dishes is Khichdi. Every state has their own version of khichdi which is essentially lentils and rice. While Pongal, Tamil Nadu’s khichdi will always hold a soft spot for me, I have to admit that Karnataka’s Bisi Bele Bath is a strong contender!
As it is with most popular dishes, the actual origins of the dish are often disputed. Every household has their own version that they make and I’ll let you in on a secret – they’re all right! The beauty about Indian cuisine is that it varies from house to house. Your measuring instruments are your eyes and hands, making your mum’s sambar rice taste extremely different compared to yours, despite her having given you the recipe! This recipe is a great starting point for your first batch of Bisi bele bath mix. Feel free to increase or decrease some of the spices because as we know, there’s no one correct version.
The Nutri-blend is beyond wonderful for dry powders like this spice mix. The special grinding blades are swift and powerful, making grinding a breeze. I’ve made a bunch of different dry powders in it and it’s pounded through with little effort. The thing I love about the Nutri-blend is the clear jars. I don’t need to keep opening my mixer up to check the texture because I can look right at it while grinding! This ensures that I don’t over or under blend the mix by accident. Just be sure to run the Nutri-blend only for 30-60 seconds. You won’t need more than 30 for most recipes but in case you do, allow the motor to rest for 2-3 minutes before going again.
Spices can be tough to grind, but the Nutri-blend blades are made of surgical grade steel and you can bet they’ll powder anything you throw at it without becoming blunt. I also particularly love the size of the grinding jar since you can make even a small quantity of powders, something I was unable to do in a traditional grinder. However even if you maximise the 300ml jar, you’ll still have as fine a powder as you need. You also get two lids with the Nutri-blend – one for storing and one for sprinkling which is super useful.
Marathi Moggu or Kapok buds are these caper-like buds used in Karnataka and Chettinad cuisine. If you’re in Bangalore then you’ll find them fairly easily but you can also find them online. They give the mix a distinct flavour described as a mix between mustard and black pepper- one which you do not want to miss. The other crucial element is which chilli to use. I prefer to use dabbi byadagi chillies which are the fatter variety for their colour and aroma but if you can’t find these you can also substitute them with Kashmiri Chillies. Similarly, Guntur chillies are used for their spiciness but you can just as easily use any other spicy variety you have on hand.
Use this masala to make the perfect pot of bisi bele bath!
Makes: Approximately ½ cup of spice mix
Time: 20 minutes
- ¼ cup Split Urad Dal
- 2 Tbsp Chana Dal
- ¼ cup Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 6-8 Byadagi Chillies (or Kashmiri Chillies)
- 4 Guntur Chillies (or any other spicy variety)
- 1 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
- 2 Cloves
- 1 inch piece of Cinnamon
- 1 inch piece of Mace
- 2 green Cardamom
- ½ tsp Black Peppercorns
- ¼ cup Dessicated Coconut
- 1 Sprig Curry Leaves
- 1 tsp Vegetable Oil
- 4 Dried Kapok Buds (Marathi Moggu)
- ½ tsp Asafoetida (Hing)
- Set a heavy bottomed pan on medium-low heat and begin by heating the two dals until fragrant and turn light brown in colour. Toss frequently to ensure even heating.
- Transfer the dals onto a plate to cool and add the coriander to the pan. Dry roast until fragrant and set aside to cool.
- Add the Fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds to the pan and dry roast till fragrant.
- Dry roast both varieties of chillies and set aside.
- Add the poppy seeds to the pan and dry roast till they start popping and turn golden in colour. Set aside.
- Add the cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom and black pepper to the pan and toast till fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Add the desiccated coconut and roast while stirring constantly. Roast till it’s light brown in colour and immediately remove from heat.
- Dry roast the curry leaves till crunchy and set aside.
- Add a little bit of oil to the pan and add the marathi moggu. Roast till fragrant and set aside to cool.
- Once all ingredients are cooled, add them to the Nutri-blend grinder jar along with the hing and grind till you get a fine powder.
- Store the spice mix in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Author: Sneha Sundar is the creator of You Dim Sum, You Lose Some; a philosophy she adopts both in and out of the kitchen.