If you are in Karnataka and have not tried the bisi bele bath, which simply translates to ‘hot lentil rice’, you are missing out on something. Some might simplify it and call it ‘sambhar rice’, but there is a lot more that goes into that dish than just sambhar masala. It is quite similar to some of the variants of the khichdi made in other parts of the country, only I find this version spicier than the others. While you can buy the spice mix off the shelf, or make your own if you have the patience, there is a different kind of fun in exploring this dish in the different eateries in the city. Whether you make it at home or eat out, do not forget to garnish it with a generous sprinkling of boondi – it just makes the dish taste that much better.
MTR, Basavanagudi – Mavalli Tiffin Room, a.k.a MTR, is one of the original tiffin rooms of Bengaluru. And even though it has about eight outlets in the city, this one seems to be the most popular. Therefore, be ready for crowds. A meal of bisi bele bath, washed down with filter coffee, leaves a happy smile on my face. If you have more room for food, the dosa is a must. And if you want to replicate the bisi bele bath, just buy one of their ready masalas and take it home.
Veena Stores, Malleshwaram – The idlis are the most popular, but the bisi bele bath at Veena Stores is worth the trip as well. Again, it is one of the oldest food joints of the city; go early so that you can get the food right off the flame. It opens at 6.30 am, and there is no seating available. But that never seems to bother anyone.
Vasudev Adiga’s – Vasudev Adiga’s has 24 outlets in the city, and that is a lot to choose from. It is usually my go-to place for bisi bele bath, mostly due to its location. The food is served hot, is rarely off flavour, and makes for a quick meal. But then again, you might not always find it on the menu, as they tend to run out of it fast.
Maiya’s, Jayanagar – Yes, it is crowded most of the time, but, honestly, the bisi bele bath here is worth the wait. Go on a Sunday for breakfast, and enjoy a plate along with some chow chow bath as well.
Puliyogare Point, Basavanagudi – As the name suggests, Puliyogare Point is best known for its puliyogare (tamarind rice). However, even the bisi bele bath here is good, and many locals swear by the flavour. You can always follow up this spicy dish with some sweet pongal.
Konark Vegetarian Restaurant, Residency Road – This ‘hot spot’ on Residency Road is popular for its dosas, coffee, and plenty of other South Indian dishes, and that includes the bisi bele bath. Despite its size, there is usually a waiting period, so do not lose your patience.
That is pretty much my list. Some of the other places where the bisi bele bath is pretty decent are Chandra Bhavan at K.R. Market, Dasaprakash on MG Road, Nisarga Garden on Infantry Road, and New Modern Hotel in Basavanagudi. Happy eating!
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Priyadarshini is an independent journalist from Bengaluru whose life pretty much revolves around food, good music, literature, and cinema. She’s worked with different publications over the past 10 years, and has written about travel, theatre, films, books, music, food and lots of food! She’s travelled wherever her feet and budget would allow, discovering cultures through local palates and social behaviour, and in an ideal world would probably resort to using food and music to resolve any dispute.