Indian food is one of the world’s great culinary adventures. However, for the uninitiated, it can be a bit tricky. You may be using new ingredients or incorporating unfamiliar cooking techniques. When it comes to making authentic Indian cuisine, the whole process can be made easier by ensuring you have the necessary Indian cookware.
To make sure you’re making those dishes as authentically as possible, take a look at this list of five kitchen essentials for Indian cuisine.
- Spice Box
Indian cuisine uses a lot of different spices. While you’re cooking, you need to have quick access to these various ingredients. Some dishes require you to add the spices quickly, meaning you won’t have time to go through your entire pantry looking for turmeric or cumin seeds.
This is why the masala dabba is essential in Indian cuisine. The masala dabba is a stainless steel spice box which contains several small tins. This box allows you to store your whole and powder spices all in one place. Unlike spices that are stored in sealed bags, ingredients that are stored in a masala dabba are able to retain their freshness. A masala dabba also gives you quick access and allows you to easily measure how much spice you’re putting in.
A spice box is a necessity when making Indian cuisine. You’ll find yourself taking it out everytime you’re cooking something up.
- Mortar and Pestle
Some ingredients will have to be ground down to their powder form using a traditional mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle is an important tool, especially if you want your dishes to have more flavour.
The pestle crushes the ingredients, releasing all the flavours that are trapped inside. On the other hand, electric grinders use blades to cut up the spices. This method doesn’t allow all the oils to be expelled from the whole ingredient, leading to dishes that aren’t as flavourful as they can be.
In terms of material, you have a choice between stainless steel, wood or stone. Some homecooks prefer stainless steel as it is easy to clean. Additionally, unlike the porous and absorbent surfaces of stone and wood, steel will not retain the smells and oils of previously used spices and ingredients.
- Tea Strainer
In many Indian homes, chai is an important part of the morning ritual. Chai’s main ingredients are black tea, milk and a type of sweetener. The spices that are commonly added to the mixture include ginger, mint leaves, cardamom and cinnamon sticks.
Once you have all of these fragrant spices added to your light-brown mixture, you will need a tea strainer to strain the liquid into a cup. To make sure the chai doesn’t mix with other flavours, most households will refrain from using their tea strainer for other purposes.
If you want to get as close as you can to making authentic chai, make sure you have a clean tea strainer ready to go.
- Flat-Bottom Deep Fry Pan
A kadai (deep flat-bottom pans) is essential for making those delicious deep-fried desserts. Although it’s similar to the woks you might have used for other Asian cuisines, the kadai’s steeper sides allow you to fry foods more evenly. The shallower slopes of the wok often leads to uneven cooking which is unsuitable for most deep-fried Indian desserts.
With a flat-bottom pans you can cook up savory foods like samosas, which are usually filled with beef, potatoes, peas and cheese. Of course, you can also make sweet desserts like gulab jamun which are made of milk solids and fine flou maida (fine flour).
Kadais are made of either cast-iron or stainless steel. Stainless steel kadais are easier to clean. On the other hand, cast-iron pans are ideal for foods that require high-heat.
- Rolling Pin
In order to roll out those flatbreads, you need to have a belan (rolling pin) ready to go. Belans are typically lighter than the standard Western rolling pin that you might be used to.
The chakla, on the other hand, is the raised wooden surface used to lay flatbreads on. Traditionally, chaklas are used while sitting on the floor. Even though all modern homes have countertops, chaklas are still being used in most Indian households to this day.
You can use the belan and chakla to make puri, an unleavened flatbread that inflates once you put in the oil. You can also make chapati, a flatbread made from finely ground whole wheat flour.
Tawas are used to create your soft and fluffy rotis. They are round griddles made out of either aluminium or cast-iron. The concave surface of the tawa ensures that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the pan. Nowadays, most tawas have non-stick coating
There are flat versions of tawas which are used for other types of foods like dosas, a thin pancake made from a fermented batter that consists of lentils and rice. Other unleavened flatbreads like phulka and paratha can also be made using this tool.
- Idli Stand
An idli stand is a must-have for South Indian cuisine. Idlis are breakfast cakes made of rice and lentil. As the name suggests, an idli stand can help you make your idlis as round and fluffy as possible. Idli stands are usually made of stainless steel or aluminium. If you want to make soft idlis, it is recommended that you use an aluminum stand.
Of course, you’ll also need a great pressure cooker. Choose between a Hawkins or a Prestige pressure cooker to ensure that your breakfast idlis are soft, fluffy and perfectly round.
With an idli cooker you can also make modak, a sweet dumpling dish or puttu, another breakfast dish made of coconut shavings and savory fillings.
Before you get cooking, make sure that you have the necessary kitchen items ready to go. If you’re new to Indian cuisine, these tools will make the learning process a little bit more manageable and less intimidating.