Sunday, February 10, 2019

Essential Utensils for Starting an Indian Kitchen

The new report on the sustainability of the planet and the future of food systems, encourages everyone to switch to a predominantly plant based diet while reducing the consumption of red meat especially in North America. How many people can survive on an American Vegetarian diet? You would be sick of vegetables in less than a day. Soggy blandly cooked vegetables, vegetables on greasy pizza, salad in a plate drenched in dressing? I don't fault anyone for not wanting to eat vegetables.

To switch over to any diet even if you are doing it for the planet or health reasons or for ethical reasons food has to be tasty. I am not saying that the Indian way of cooking is the only way to cook tasty vegetarian dishes given that it comes with a reputation of being hard with too many ingredients and steps. Maybe it is, but having the right utensils is the first step in starting yourself on a journey towards good home cooked Indian food.

These are a few essential utensils for starting of an Indian Kitchen. This is an attempt to get someone new to Indian cooking or setting up a kitchen help decide what they need to acquire. I avoid buying non stick cookware, one because they start to peel off and second I am not too comfortable with their chemical reaction with food.

So here goes,

1. Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is a very important for an Indian kitchen like the air we breathe. I kid you not. From using it to cook lentils, beans, rice, making curries it will quickly become a trusted go to utensil. I have both stainless steel and aluminum cookers. I like the aluminum cookers when cooking food in it directly and stainless steel cookers if you had to put in another vessel to cook like for idlis or steaming.

2. Electric Pressure Cooker - Instant Pot
While I will never dream of getting rid of my pressure cooker, as of last count I have at least 5 of them - not bought at the same time but accumulated over 20 odd years. Having said that an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot is a good investment alongside a pressure cooker or just on its own. Without having to worry about whistles and leaking etc., it also comes with the added advantage of being a gadget, delayed start, preset timers, auto warm mode without having to be close by and on vigil. But do your own research before you decide which one is the right one for you. I appreciate my Instant Pot a whole lot. A lot of my pressure cooker cooking has migrated over to the Instant Pot ever since I bought it.

3. Kadai or an Indian style wide mouthed deep saute pan or Indian Wok
Kadai is the next item that is a must have. For sauteing, stir frying, braising, stewing and steaming it finds many uses. I bought this steel pan in India but they are available here in the US in slightly different shapes.

There are several kinds of saute pans - shallow, deep, flat bottom. One other kind I like is a stainless steel saute pan which is slightly shallow. Either one of them should work fine.

4. Sauce Pan
Sauce pan finds itself as another indispensable item in the Indian kitchen. From making hot water, heating milk, making tea, coffee it has many uses.

5. Cast Iron Pan
A cast iron pan though very useful for dry roasting, cooking vegetable or meat fry it is used often, it is no something you need to absolutely have. You can do these things in the kadai if you wanted to. But having a cast iron pan will make the task easier and a well seasoned pan can make it as easy to roast vegetables or meat just like a non-stick pan. There are cast iron pans ranging in price from $10 to $300. I have a Lodge pan and it does it work pretty good and it came seasoned when I bought it.

Just have to follow some simple rules when cleaning the cast iron pan. Do not scrub the pan with any abrasive cleaners. If you have food stuck boil water in it and scrub it. Just be cautious and use gloves when cleaning.

5. Sauce Pot or Dutch Oven
This is another must have item in an Indian kitchen. To make curries, sambhar, kuzhambu, rasam or any of the numerous gravies. Buy the size that best suits your family's needs. The ones I have are a 3 liter and 6 quart vessels.

I have both a stainless steel and a fully glass Visions Dutch Oven. Like them both but now I prefer using the glass dutch oven because it is easy to clean and it behaves more or less like a non-stick pan and on the rare occasion when food does stick to the bottom it is easy to clean.

6. Dosai or Chapathi Griddle
In a South Indian's Kitchen a dosai pan is another ever present utensil. Most of us grew up eating dosai and idli for breakfast. It is comfort food. There are also several ways of making dosai with wheat flour, ragi flour or with any millet flour. So a quick meal is just always only half an hour away.

Along with dosai pan, an idli pan would be another item that might would be useful in the kitchen. The steaming vessel could be used in the pressure cooker or with a steaming vessel on its own. I always steam my idlis in the pressure cooker. If you decided to do the same just make sure you purchase idli pans in a size that can go into the pressure cooker you have.

With the dosai it is important to remember to not use the same pan for making dosai and other things like chapathi ,omelette etc., Keep a separate pan for making dosai or you will have to struggle with removing the dosai from the pan.

7. Spatulas
The right kind of spoons and spatulas are of course necessary to have in the kitchen.

8. Small Seasoning Pan / Omelette Pan
A small pan for seasoning or making omelettes is of course nice to have.

Hope this helps in starting to setup your own Indian Kitchen.

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