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Bisi Bele Huliyanna | A Signature Hot Lentil Rice from Karnataka, Southern India

Bisi Bele bhaath is considered the Queen of rice dishes from Karnataka, in Southern India. Unlike the North-Indian pulao, the rice does not make a stand separate but rather concedes defeat and turns itself into a mush, for the greater good of the dish. The consistency is very much between congee and breakfast oatmeal - thick and mushy.

This all vegetarian rice dish with a fun name like Bisi-Bele (pronounce like Pele the soccer player) Huliyanna simpply means hot lentil rice with Huliyanna spices. Except there's nothing simple about it. The flavors are complex with its palimpsest of flavors and the end result, explosive.

I have had even devout non-vegetarians swoon at it's feet.

As you scroll down the list of ingredients, you'll probably feel a migraine coming on and this especially if your idea of cooking is slapping on peanut butter on jelly on a slice of bread. And I'd definitely not attempt making this one on weeknights and consider this a weekend treat.

Most of the dish can be prepared in advance but does it have quite a few steps?


Is it hard to put together?


Let me see if I can break this down for you;

Cooked lentils - meet - vegetables - meet - rice and Huliyanna spices - meet - tempering spices in hot oil - and dinner done!

In fact, this is a ideal dish for company and special occasions because it's a crowd pleaser and once it makes an appearance from the refrigerator from the day before, it will take a mere 10 minutes to set at the table.

Serve with a lovely hot & spicy tomato & garlic chutney (look for it under chutneys) and fried poppadoms and not only will you have one gorgeous feast but whomever is lucky enough to be invited will be talking about your culinary prowess for time to come!



Recipe for

Bisi Bele Huliyanna ~ A Signature Hot Lentil Rice from Karnataka, South India

Note: Overnight soaking for lentils

Serves 4-6

Shopping list:

1 cup + 2 tbsp. toor dal, split pigeon peas

1 cup Basmati rice

3 tbsp. Tamarind concentrate

1 long spring fresh curry leaves

2 medium tomatoes (to yield 1 cup diced)

1 large chayote squash or sambhar kakdi

2-3 carrots (to yield 1 cup, 1" long lengths)

1/2 cup frozen peas

3/4 lbs. fresh green beans (to yield 2 cups trimmed and cut into 2" lengths)

12 qty pearl onions

3/4 tbsp. salt

1 tsp red chilly powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

Huliyanna spices:

4 tbsp. channa dal (split Indian chick peas)

2 tbsp. urad dal (split black gram)

5 whole cardamom pods

2 qty 1" pieces cinnamon

5 cloves

3 whole dried red chilies

3 tbsp. unsweetened, desiccated coconut (also known as coconut powder)

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp. coriander seeds

1 tsp dried fenugreek seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

For tempering:

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1-1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

3 whole dried red chilies

1 sprig fresh curry leaves (optional)

For Garnish:

3/4 cup raw red skin peanuts

2 tsp ghee (to sauté peanuts)

1 tbsp. ghee (as final topping) & more if desired on individual servings


Toor dal: Soak in 6 cups of tap water, overnight.

Pearl Onions: Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil. Drop the onions in, skin and all and simmer over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. Sieve, discarding the liquid. Once cool, pinch woody end off and the onion will slide out of its covering.

Carrots : Peel and cut into 1" long cylindrical pieces. Quarter each piece. Set aside.

Green beans: String and snap into 2" lengths

Tomatoes: Discard woody ends and dice into 1/2" pieces. Set aside till ready to use.

Chayote squash: Cut off ends and discard. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Halve then quarter. Using a knife, cut away the white core (similar to a pear). Cut each quarter into 1" pieces

Frozen peas: Measure and set aside.

Huliyanna Spices:

In a kadhai, thick bottomed or non-stick skillet over medium heat, dry roast all the ingredients for a few seconds, stirring constantly, except the desiccated dry coconut, until fragrant and lentils turn golden brown.

Remove onto a plate or bowl to cool. Turn off the heat and and dry roast the desiccated coconut in the retained heat of the skillet until golden brown.

Empty the coconut into the bowl with the other spices.

When roasted ingredients are cooled, grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder or a mixer and set aside. Do not open the lid, to keep the fresh aroma of the ground spices intact.

Peanuts: In the same pan used for roasting spices, add the ghee and over medium heat, stirring constantly, sauté the peanuts till a glistening golden brown. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.


Sieve the toor dal and empty dal to a large heavy bottomed deep pan. Add 11 cups of water, salt and turmeric and on medium-high heat bring to a simmer. Spoon away the scummy foam as it appears on the surface and keep discarding as it appears for about the first 10 minutes.

Cover the pot with a lid & cook for about 30-40 minutes till the dal is completely soft and mushy.

Cook's Note: Do not close the pot with the lid all the way, leave a slight 1/4" gap to allow steam to escape or else your dal will boil over and run down the sides of the pot.

Basmati rice: Soak in 4 cups of water while preparing the vegetables.

Sieve the water and discard from the Basmati rice. Add to the the toor dal along with all the vegetable except for the peas. Cover the pot with a lid, once again keeping a slight gap, allowing the steam to escape so the contents don't boil over. Cook the vegetables for about 10-15 minutes till the vegetables are tender. Check by piercing the vegetables with a knife or tasting.

Add the Huliyanna spices, curry leaves, tomatoes, peas and tamarind concentrate. Stir well to break any lumps and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Set aside till ready to serve.

Cook's Note: Add 1/2 cup water and stir if the rice is too thick. The consistency should be like khitchdi - thicker than a congee and slightly thinner than oatmeal.

Just before proceeding to the final step, the tempering, over medium heat, stir to warm through and add another 1/2 cup water or so if needed to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings a final time.

Final step, tempering:

Gather all the tempering ingredients in front on you before beginning at the stove. Heat ghee in a small kadhai or saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida and whole red chillies (you can also add the additional curry leaves if desired).

Pour the tempering over on the piping hot rice and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve hot drizzled with more ghee if desired along with fried pappadoms.

Make ahead tips: This dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated till the final step (tempering) so is a great meal for company or when you want a special meal but are short on time.




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