When you are young and when it was raining and sunny, your parents would have showed you the rainbow. Every kid will ask about it and parents and picture book will give an enchanting reply. Marriage between the clouds and the earth, elves with pots of gold and the likes. Everything will make the rainbow more fascinating and make it a divine experience whenever you look at it. Then, when you grow up, your science book will reveal the truth about the rainbow's occurrence and the physics behind it. Though you now realize the blatant science behind it, it is always fascinating.
For me, the Bisi bela bath presented something similar. The most popular food in Karnataka, in my house, it was my mothers rainbow. The aroma that filled the house when she was cooking it would increase your appetite several folds. On a chill rainy day, there can be nothing better than the hot Bisi bela bath, served with roasted potatoes or onion raita or fried applam. Initially it was my mothers secret recipe that made it mysterious. It was a secret at that time, because I would not understand it. The mystery surrounding the aroma and the taste made us look forward to devour it when presented at occasions. And then, after so many years of comfortably eating it, situations forced me to grow up and ask her the recipe for it.
Cinnamon, she said. The magic, the flavor, the key is good cinnamon. Cinnamon with the bark still on, not the processed glazed ones or the powder or the flavoring. It weaves the aromatic thread that links together the rice, lentils and the vegetables.
I cooked this following the instructions from my mother. The only improvisation I made was the method of cooking it. I cooked 2 measures of rice with a little more than half a measure of toor dhal in a pressure cooker and set it aside. Then I dry roasted mustard seeds, very little fenugreek seeds, red chili, jeera, channa dhal, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon and scrapped coconut. I also few cloves and just one cardamom to this. Then I coarsely grounded this. After heating oil in a pan, I added chopped green chili, onion cut not into very small pieces, small onions, diced carrots and potatoes, cut beans and lots of green peas. Turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, hing and of course salt went into this. Adding water I cooked it until 70 % done and then added the coarsely grounded spices. This is the point when you will feel your feet are actually above the ground. I made this with extra water in it and cooked the spices along with the vegetables and finally transferred this into the pressure cooker, added ghee and thoroughly mixed it with the cooked rice and dhal. The rice and dhal mixture will absorb the water well, so it is okay to have extra water and even if water is a bit excess, the bisi bela bath will still be wonderful. Final garnishing was as usual with coriander leaves.
I felt I had just re created the rainbow myself!