Masale bhat

Masale Bhat

The world is blessed with so many different ways to cook rice. Where would we be without this humble grain? So many souls are sustained by it. But for such a mundane ingredient it’s amazing how it forms the basis for something unique to the region that I grew up in, the wonderful masale bhat. When it comes to rekindling food memories of my childhood, there are very few other dishes that are so provocative. So please don’t think this is ‘just another rice dish’, maybe it is at some level, but to me it’s home and, though I may be biassed, I struggle to think of a tastier way to enjoy this most ubiquitous of staples.

So what makes masale bhat so special, you may ask?
Well, there’s nothing anomalous about this dish because as you may know, it’s a traditional dish with its long-standing legacy in Maharashtrian cuisine. So I prefer not to stray too far from the traditional flavour and technique.

What I will say though, is that the key to a good ‘masale bhat’ is to use plenty of ivy gourd (locally called ‘tendli’ or ‘tondli’) combined with the subtle sourness that comes from either tomato or curd. This, for me, is what makes it stand out from other popular rice dishes like pulao and khichdi.

Throw in a few cashews and you can enjoy their characteristic nutty flavour with ivy gourd that lends its inviting crunch beautifully to the cooked rice that is neither mushy nor too firm in texture.

The rice itself is short grain, ideally fragrant ​​Ambemohar. Sona Masoori makes a good substitute too. But if you can’t find either, basmati serves as a decent alternative. 

And your tastebuds will be forever thankful for the ambrosial goda masala, which I have shared the recipe for here too. But what brings the dish together for me is the generous drizzle of melted ghee and a sprinkle of grated coconut added just before serving.

Instant Pot Masale bhat
Masale bhat thali. Starting from the top anticlockwise – masale bhat, yoghurt, raw baby mango, carrot koshimbir (raita), kurdai and a peanut-sesame flapjack.

What is goda masala?
It’s a special spice-mix that adds heat and aroma to many Maharashtrian dishes. A variety of aromatic, mild and hot spices are roasted before grinding them into a powder we call goda masala. It’s an important ingredient in masale bhat. While it’s readily available in local stores in India, some prefer their own goda masala freshly pounded at home. So you’ll find many Maharashtrian families have their own subtle variations on this spice mix tweaked for their own particular taste. Though I prefer to make my own goda masala, especially for masale bhat, I occasionally buy it online. So if time is against you, feel free to pick up a ready-made mix at your local Asian store and if you can’t find it, garam masala will do at a pinch and is available the world over.

What type of rice is used in this recipe?
Traditionally, any short grain fragrant rice like Ambemohar or Surti Kolam is used in this dish but you can also use Sona Masoori or even basmati rice. Whatever type of rice you choose, this dish turns out best with a well-aged or old rice (rice that’s stored for ageing for more than a year). The dish turns out less sticky than with new rice. 

What kind of vegetables to use in masale bhat?
You can add all sorts of vegetables, so long as you include ivy gourd and aubergines; they are what give masale bhat it’s defining character. Potatoes, red carrots and peas are often added to the mix. If you choose to make this dish with just ivy gourd, when they’re available in abundance, the masale bhat becomes tondli bhat. On the other hand if you cook it solely with aubergines then it’s called ‘vangi bhat’.

The quintessential wedding favourite masale bhat has to be drizzled with ghee or ‘sajuk toop’ before serving.


Ingredients:
I don’t usually elaborate on ingredients but I feel I should in this case:

Rice: Try using a short grain fragrant rice for this dish. I have used Ambemohar as I managed to find it here in the UK. But you can use a long grain basmati if you can’t find a short-grain rice. The rice in this dish doesn’t need to be fluffy and separated. It’s meant to be slightly sticky. Masale bhat needs a little more water than biryani. Also if you’re cooking it in an Instant Pot you may need a little more water than suggested in the recipe depending on the type of rice you use.

Goda masala: The quintessential spice mix for masale bhat is goda masala. Although I have given the recipe for this spice-mix, you can buy a readymade pack from your local store if you can find it.

Oil: Typically masale bhat is cooked in either peanut or sunflower oil. You can even cook it in ghee or a mixture of oil and ghee. 

Ivy gourd or ‘tondli’ as they’re called in Maharashtra
The obligatory sprinkle of grated fresh coconut

Ways to cook masale bhat:
There is more than one way to cook masale bhat

Cooking in an Instant Pot:
Instant Pot has become my tool of choice for cooking masale bhat as it comes together so quickly. The rice and veggies cook perfectly in just 4 minutes. The cooking time, as well as the amount of hot water, may need to be adjusted depending on the type of rice you use. Always wash and rinse the rice before cooking. Fry all the ingredients in Sauté mode then Pressure Cook on High for 4 minutes.

Cooking in a pressure cooker:
Before I had an Instant Pot, I cooked masale bhat in a good old pressure cooker. Add two and a quarter cups of hot water for every cup of rice. Wash and rinse the rice for a couple of minutes. Then soak it for 30 minutes. In the pressure cooker, first, let the rice come to a boil before putting the lid on. Pressure cook over a medium to high flame for one whistle and it’s done. Please note, the cooking time may vary depending on the type of rice you use.

Cooking in a pan:
Masale bhat can be cooked in a heavy-bottomed lidded pan. Wash and rinse the rice. Heat the pan over a medium flame, fry all the spices. Tip in the washed rice with twice as much hot water as rice. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat right down and cook covered for 7-10 minutes.  

Masale Bhat

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: MainCuisine: Maharashtrian, IndianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Total time

40

minutes

This simple one-pot vegetarian and gluten-free rice dish from Maharashtra in India, is a favourite at festivities and weddings. It needs a special spice-mix called goda masala to prepare. I have shared the recipe for both here.

Ingredients

  • Masale bhat recipe
  • 215g (1 cup) Ambemohar or sona masoori rice

  • 500ml (2¼  cup) hot water

  • 2 medium-sized new potatoes (diced)

  • 1 medium-sized carrot (chopped)

  • 1 medium-sized aubergine (diced into big pieces)

  • 160g ivy gourd or tondli or tendli (cut in quarters or halves)

  • 70g peas (frozen or fresh)

  • 1 medium-sized onion (sliced)

  • 60g (¼ cup) yoghurt

  • ¼  tsp asafoetida

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 1½ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder

  • 3 tsp goda masala or garam masala (recipe below)

  • 8 cashew nuts

  • 6 garlic cloves (minced)

  • ½ inch ginger (minced)

  • 7 curry leaves

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 5 cloves

  • 7 whole peppercorns

  • 3 green chillies (slit)

  • ½ a lime

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 5 green cardamom pods

  • ½ tsp mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 70ml sunflower oil

  • 50g coriander (chopped)

  • 80g fresh coconut (grated)

  • 60ml ghee (melted)

  • 1 tbsp salt or to taste

  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)

  • For goda masala
  • 125g coriander seeds

  • 5 dried red chillies

  • 2g pure asafoetida (whole hing)

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 2g black stone flower (dagad phool)

  • 20g brown sesame seeds (indigenous variety)

  • 1g mace

  • 1½ tsp black cumin seeds

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 30 whole black peppercorns

  • 2 star anise

  • 25 cloves

  • 2 black cardamom pods

  • 8g dried coconut (chopped)

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil

Directions

  • For goda masala:
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a hot karahi or pan over a low to medium flame. Roast the spices for 2 minutes by first adding bay leaves followed by the coconut, cinnamon, black cardamom, whole asafoetida, whole peppercorns, cloves, black stone flower, star anise, mace, cumin, black cumin, dried red chillies and turmeric powder. 
  • Switch off the flame. Then add the sesame seeds to the same pan and lightly toast for another 30-45 sec. Decant the mixture onto a plate and let it cool.
  • In the same karahi, heat the remaining oil. Tip in the coriander seeds and toast for about 1 minute until slightly golden. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  • Grind the mixture from step 2. Grind the toasted coriander seeds from step3. Mix them all together and your goda masala is ready.
  • For cooking masale bhat in an Instant Pot:
  • Wash and rinse the rice a couple of times and leave aside.
  • Turn on the Instant Pot. Select Sauté mode on High. Press Start. Heat the oil and crackle the mustard seeds followed by cumin seeds. Add the asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves and curry leaves, then stir.
  • Add the onion and cook until translucent. Follow with minced ginger and garlic. Chuck in the green chillies as well. Stir for 30 seconds.
  • Toss in all the veggies starting with ivy gourd, potatoes, carrots and aubergines. Turn the Sauté mode to Low and add the turmeric and red chilli powder as well as 2 teaspoons of goda masala. Stir everything together for 30 – 45 seconds. Throw in the coriander too.
  • Tip in the rice followed by the yoghurt. Give it a good stir. Finally, pour in the hot water and add the third teaspoon of goda masala. Add the peas, salt and sugar to taste along with a hard squeeze of the lime. Give it all a good stir.
  • Put the Instant Pot lid on. Change the mode to Pressure Cook (H1). Set the Time to 4 minutes and Start. Release the steam naturally or use the pressure release valve.
  • Open the lid. Drizzle with ghee and mix. Sprinkle with grated fresh coconut before serving.
  • For cooking masale bhat in a pressure cooker:
  • Wash and rinse the rice a couple of times and soak in water for 15-20 minutes
  • Heat the oil and crackle the mustard seeds followed by cumin seeds in a pressure cooker over a medium flame. Add the asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves and curry leaves, then stir.
  • Add the onion and cook until translucent. Follow with minced ginger and garlic. Chuck in the green chillies as well. Stir for 30 seconds.
  • Toss in all the veggies starting with ivy gourd, potatoes, carrots and aubergines. Turn the flame down to low and add the turmeric and red chilli powder as well as 2 teaspoons of goda masala. Mix everything together for 30 – 45 seconds. Throw in the coriander too.
  • Tip in the soaked rice followed by the yoghurt. Give it a good stir. Finally, pour in the hot water and add the third teaspoon of goda masala. Add the peas, salt and sugar to taste along with a hard squeeze of the lime. Give it all a good stir.
  • Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook over a low to medium flame for one whistle.
  • Open the lid. Drizzle with ghee and mix. Sprinkle with fresh grated coconut before serving.
  • For cooking masale bhat in a pan:
  • Wash and rinse the rice a couple of times.
  • Heat the oil and crackle the mustard seeds followed by cumin seeds in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium flame. Add the asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves and curry leaves, then stir.
  • Add the onion and cook until translucent. Follow with minced ginger and garlic. Chuck in the green chillies as well. Stir for 30 seconds.
  • Toss in all the veggies starting with ivy gourd, potatoes, carrots and aubergines. Turn the flame down to low and add the turmeric and red chilli powder as well as 2 teaspoons of goda masala. Mix everything together for 30 – 45 seconds. Throw in the coriander too.
  • Tip in the rice followed by the yoghurt. Give it a good stir. Finally, pour in the hot water and add the third teaspoon of goda masala. Add the peas, salt and sugar to taste along with a hard squeeze of the lime. Give it all a good stir.
  • Turn the heat right down and cook covered for 7-10 minutes.
  • Open the lid. Drizzle with ghee and mix. Sprinkle with grated fresh coconut before serving.

Tips, Adaptations and notes

  • 1. This recipe uses Ambemohar rice. The cooking times will be similar to basmati rice however they may vary depending on the age, quality as well as the type of rice used.
  • 2. To make this dish vegan, just skip the ghee and yoghurt. Instead add a chopped tomato for sourness.
  • 3. If you can’t find goda masala or don’t have time to make it, swap it with the readily available garam masala.
  • 4. Cauliflower makes a nice addition to this dish. To stop it going mushy, add the florets just before covering with a lid.
  • 5. For the goda masala recipe, don’t overdo the oil and coconut as it tends to turn the masala rancid in storage.
  • 6. Goda masala keeps well for up to a year.
  • 7. If you can’t get hold of black stone flower, don’t worry, goda masala can be made without. 
  • 8. Also skip the whole asafoetida if unavailable.
  • 9. You can swap the fresh coconut, used to finish the dish, with frozen, fresh or even dried grated coconut.
  • 10. The quantity of hot water used in the recipe is merely a guideline. You may need to adjust depending on the type of rice and the cooking technique.
  • 11. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases

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