Interesting Facts About The Traditional Indian Kitchen
A Brief Introduction To The Indian Kitchen
Once, I was in conversation with a friend from a western country. He asked me, 'What is so unique about Indian cooking and its kitchen?'
To my surprise, when I started narrating to him, I went on and on. Perhaps, I had not thought, about this topic, at such length and depth earlier.
There was so much to tell. When you say, Indian food, many would think, 'Hot, spices, curries, chapatis, sweets etc.' Isn’t it?
Yes, it’s all that, but much more beyond that.
To understand this, lets have a look into a standard 'Indian Kitchen.'
Most Indian kitchens are already equipped with variety of ingredients, and kitchen tools, to create exotic and delicious Indian delicacies.
To set up an Indian Kitchen, is a lengthy job. Because, certain cooking tools are specific, without which it would be difficult, to prepare the staple food, such as chapatis, parathas, dosa, idli, curry powder etc.
Similarly, certain herbs and spices, such as the turmeric, curry leaves, ginger-garlic paste, garam masala (whole and ground) etc. are a must.have in the kitchen cabinets.
The Must Have Tools of The Indian Kitchen
- Most of the Indian cooking is done, on top of the stove, or gas stove. Earlier, it was done over coal, or earthen stove, or wood coal.
- Indians favor cast iron, or earthenware cooking pans. However, saucepans, or frying pans, of any material are being used these days.
- A round bottomed cast iron pan, called kadhai, is most commonly used in India.
- A cast iron griddle called a tava, is used for cooking parathas, chapatis, rotis, dosas, pancakes( both sweet and salted) etc.
- Most of the curries, lentils, rice, fried, or shallow fried recipes, are cooked in medium sized saucepan, with a lid cover.
- A wok is now popular for deep frying, and also for those recipes, which do not need cover, such as pakoras, upmas, samosas etc.
- For preparing curry spices, a mortar and pestle, was used traditionally, for this purpose. It provides, a very fine aroma, but nowadays people prefer electric mixers, and grinders, or food processors.
- Tandoor oven, is India's unique cooking technique. A tandoor oven is a made with fine clay, with rounded sides, standing about 1.5 meters high, and charcoal is ignited, at the bottom, as the heat source.
- Tandoor ovens are generally not found in homes, but in restaurants, or dhabas (open cooking spaces).
- This particular mode of cooking, relies on the intense heat inside, created by hot coals. Thus, you can cook meat, seafood, chicken, naans, parathas etc.
- The food thus cooked, is crispy on the outside, but soft and juicy, on the inside.
- Long, metal skewers are used to place meat, kebabs etc.inside the tandoor to cook.
- These foods are already marinated, with special spices and yogurt etc.
- India is a country with diverse culture. As such, every state has a different cooking technique, and different cooking tools.
- For example, South Indian cooking requires Idli maker, and dosa tava. And the Gujaratis require special tools for making dhoklas, khakras etc.
- In South India, a special round mortar and pestle is used, for grinding lentils, rice etc.
- Its not possible to mention all kinds of Indian cooking techniques and the tools in one single article. But, by and large the above mentioned tools are the basic tools.
- You will definitely find a tava (cast iron flat pan), a kadhai (something like a Wok), chakla-belan (Indian style rolling pin), coconut grater, chimta (tongs), kalchi (spatula with or without holes), pressure cooker etc. in every Indian kitchen.
- For making sweets, for special occasions, special tools are required.
- Even Indians in India may not be familiar with all the varieties of cooking tools, techniques, and cuisines used throughout the country, due to the variety and vast range of cooking styles.
The Indian Kitchen: Something About Techniques And Ingredients:
- Some of the recipes need lot of prior preparation. For example, dosa, idli, dahi wada etc. Such recipes involve soaking, grinding and slow cooking.
- The Indian cuisine comprises of variety of spices, not only for the flavour, taste, or aroma, but for its numerous health benefits.
- A special cooking technique is tempering or(tadka/ chownk/ baghar). Wherein, whole spices are put in hot oil, or pure ghee, to be added in lentils, or vegetables.
- The Whole, or ground Coriander seeds, Cardamoms, Cloves, Cinnamon sticks, Fenugreek seeds, Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Aniseeds, Asafoetida, Bay leaves, black pepper, Turmeric, Sesame seeds, Saffron etc. are almost regular ingredients in the Indian kitchen.
- Whole spices are used for tempering, and ground to prepare curry paste.
- Pure ghee is another important ingredient, for applying on the chapatis, parathas, or for lentils/ pulses etc. It is a must for preparing sweets such as laddoos as well.
- Jaggery, curd or yogurt, coconut milk and it’s paste, ginger, garlic, onion are included in the recipes, almost invariably.
- Another must have, is green coriander leaves, curry leaves, mint leaves etc.
- Besides, vegetable oil such as Sunflower, mustard oil is also a favorite among North Indians.
- The Chutneys, pickles, papad (papadum), sweets, are a must in a regular meal. In some part of India, there is a practice to start the meal with sweets, while in other parts, sweets are served at the end of the meal.
- Sweets are an important part of the Indian cuisine. And, there is an endless variety of them, differing from region to region, state to state.
- On special occasions, there is a practice of serving Paan (Betel leaf), or Mukhwaas (mouth fresheners, comprising of sweet Aniseed/ Betel nut etc), after the meal is over.
- The Indian cooking and kitchen has evolved and come a long way. Although on special occasions, the weddings, or the festivals, you would still see only traditional food, prepared in an authentic way.
- Nowadays, fusion foods is quite popular. North Indians prepare South Indian food, with their own special touch, and the same with South, East, or West Indian cooking.
- Not only that, Indians have adopted cuisines, from different parts of the World, and added their own touch to create delicious food.
- So there is the Italian pizza, or the Chinese food, or the Thai food, and many others, cooked with an Indian touch, and they all taste so delicious.
Glimpses of Traditional Indian Cooking, Source: YouTube
Are you familiar with the Indian cooking tools?
Tandoori Roti, Source: YouTube
© 2014 Chitrangada Sharan