February 5, 2014

Bisi Bele Baath w/ Adzuki Beans & Black Rice

Here is one more traditional South Indian recipe called Bisi Bele Baath, with a Quick'n'Heatlhy face-lift :-). Bisi Bele Baath translates to hot lentil rice. Instead of the usual rice-lentil combo, I am using black rice and adzuki beans, so that we get more whole grains and legumes. Also, just like any other recipe, I am splitting the cooking process into a few chunks so as to not overcook any ingredients. The first step, as always is soaking my rice and grains hours before cooking :-). 

Before I write the recipe, I want to provide some background on soaking grains. In the recent past, I have been reading a lot about soaking whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, and why is it important. Let us talk a little bit about that here: Initially, when we started learning about wholesome eating, we gradually made our switch from white rice to brown, red, black and other whole-grain varieties of rice. Also switched from white bread to wheat bread, and then to homemade whole-grain bread; and switched from just eating conventional grains to eating a variety of whole grains and seeds. The list goes on.., but the interesting (and frustrating at times too) thing about healthy eating is that the more you read and learn about healthy eating, the more conflicting facts you discover.

Most people agree on the fact that whole grains are more nutritious, whereas white or refined grains lack in nutrition and contain more starch and less fiber, making it not advisable to consume regularly. Some nutritionists though, point out that just like how humans and animals have self surviving agents like claws, nails, etc., plants also come with their own survival methods. Since all these grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are seeds of their plants, the plants will have a way to protect the seeds. Though they are good from the plant's perceptive, they may not be as well suitable for humans or animals to eat. As per nutritionists, these coatings can have elements that act as nutrition inhibitors. Some also say that these coatings around the husks cannot be digested well by some people. The same nutritionists suggest solutions for these problems as well by soaking, sprouting and fermenting. It seems that soaking can deactivate these nutrition inhibitors to some level and make them more suitable for digestion. Sprouting can further enhance this process and can get some of the good enzyme activity started too. Fermenting is also suggested in some cases to dissolve these agents and breakdown some of the proteins that can cause irritation to our guts.

Think about it, in our homes we used to do a lot of soaking, sprouting and fermenting, but modern gadgets like the pressure cooker and the powerful grinders/blenders made life easier. Slowly we forgot about those traditional methods, and turned to easy and instant ways of cooking.

Here is my take: I eat and serve a variety of whole grains, nuts, legumes and seeds in our family. I do soaking 90% of the time. If nothing, it improves the cooking time, and it seems to have improved digestibility and taste. I also do sprouting/fermenting depending on the dish. Ultimately, everyone should listen to their bodies and also do the best they can do.

Now coming to today's recipe:

  • Black Rice - 3/4 cup (soaked for 12 to 24  hours)
  • Adzuki Beans -1/2 cup (soaked for 12-24 hours)
  • Tamarind - walnut sized ball (soaked in warm water for 30 minutes)
  • Cut vegetables - 2-3 cups 
  • Masala powder - 1 batch (recipe below)
  • Sea salt - as per taste 
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Ghee - 1 Tbs (optional)

  • Cook black rice with 1 1/2 cups of water. Cook the rice just enough, water might still remain, that is okay.
  • Cook Adzuki beans with 2-3 cups of water. Just like rice, cook beans just enough. We will use the remaining water as base for the bisi bele bath.
  • Mash the tamarind well and pass thru a strainer or cheese cloth to get the extract out. 
  • Add the tamarind extract, masala powder  and 1 cup of bean cooking water to a blender and purée till very fine.
  • Start cooking the vegetables with remaining bean cooking water and turmeric powder.
  • Once vegetables are almost done, add the ground masala purée and salt. 
  • Adjust taste, if you are okay with the gravy, add the cooked beans and rice and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes on low flame.
  • Remove from flame and let it sit for 30 minutes before serving, so that all the flavors mingle well.
  • Serve optionally drizzled with ghee. Enjoy !!

For masala powder:
  • Cinnamon  -1 inch stick
  • Urad dal - 1 Tbs.
  • Channa dal - 1 Tbs
  • Fenugreek Seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Cardamom - 1-2
  • Cloves - 1-2
  • Grated coconut - 1/4 cup
  • Coriander - 3 tsp
  • Red chilly - 3-4

  • Dry roast channa dal and urad dal separately.
  • Dry roast coriander, cinnamon, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, cardamom, and cloves together.
  • Toast coconut slightly without burning.
  • Powder everything to a fine powder.

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  1. I am going to make this as soon as the weather cools down a bit. At the moment it is too hot for anything to cook on the stove for a while but once autumn turns up (or should I say IF it does...) this is going to be made post haste. Cheers for sharing :)

    1. Thank you! It is just the opposite in this part of the world.. too cold that even the temperature from the stove is a 'warm' welcome :-)


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