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Indian Cooking Techniques and Equipment

by Rinku Bhattacharya

Indian Cooking, like any other cuisine, has its own list of cooking techniques and equipment that are needed to get things working in the kitchen. To follow the recipes, it is essential to understand the terms. Several recipe writers feel that a little gets lost in the translation to English, and they use the original terms.

We naturally have tools of the trade, and the list that I have here is more practical for the twenty-first century lifestyle rather than what used to be found 4,000 years ago.

Basic Techniques of Indian Cooking

Bhapa: This technique is simply steaming, usually in banana leaves or in foil. This is used in Eastern India and other parts of India for fish and vegetables.

Bhunao/Kasha: This is the process of cooking mainly rich meat dishes in a onion spice base on low heat stirring frequently for a very long time.

Bagar/Chowk or Sambara: This is the process of tempering foods with the final addition of spices and ghee. It is used for most lentil dishes.

Dum-Pukth: This is cooking in a sealed steam pot, this method is typical of the cooking of Lucknow and is used for rice dishes such as biryanis and pillaus.

Talna: This is the term for frying both deep and shallow. Tikkis and kababs are cooked this way.

Sekhna – is the process of pan roasting for nuts and griddle breads.


Stocking the Indian Kitchen

Indian cooking evolved in a quieter world where there was more time and help for the kitchen. It would not make much sense in today's modern Indian or a Western kitchen to attempt to mimic the cookware and tools that existed in the original Indian Kitchen. I will therefore give you a list of items that I think are practical and useful for everyday Indian Cooking.

Indian Pots, Pans and Spoons

Karahi or the Indian Wok: This is usually a smaller cast iron wok shaped pot. The shape of this is extremely useful for deep frying since it transmits the heat evenly.

Tawa or flat heavy griddle or pan: A good hard anodized one is especially useful for tikkis, Indian flatbreads and pancakes.

A small heavy bottomed skillet: This is useful for dry roasting the spices. The appropriate way to roast the spices is to do them in small batches and for a few minutes.

A steamer or steaming pot: There are several dishes especially in south India cuisine that need to be steamed, a good pot that allows for this is immensely useful.

A crock pot: I find this immensely helpful for stews that need a lot of slow cooking time. It retains the flavors and lets the stew simmer without any attention.

A Pressure cooker: This on the converse end of a crock pot cuts down cooking time tremendously for beans and other items that take a long time to cook.

Sarashi: A pair of metal tongs, these are useful for turning breads and other hot foods.

Jhajri – A metal turner with holes, this is round, it is useful for frying since it allows you to drain the oil.

Kitchen Appliances for the Indian Kitchen:

Basic Food Processor: Indian cooking entails an enormous amount of chopping, pureeing and pasting. This device is worth its weight in gold in the time it saves.

Mortar and Pestle: A good marble mortar and pestle is useful for the coarse grinding of spices and herbs.

Coffee Grinder: A coffee grinder is essential for making spice powders and good Indian cooking is incomplete without the same.

This is not an overwhelming list for such a complex cuisine. The rest is up to you!

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