For those who are keen chefs and have a passion for re-creating traditional dishes from around the globe, you are likely to have a kitchen filled with different utensils, spices and equipment to help make your creations just that little more authentic. However, when it comes to Indian cuisine, it takes more than just a range of different spices. Expert equipment and traditional techniques are also required to make delicious Indian dishes at home.
10 Must-Haves To Create Indian Dishes At Home
There are many different tools that have been designed specifically with the most popular Indian dishes in mind. They allow you to stay in control of the individual cooking methods that are imperative to create authentic dishes.
Here at our Indian restaurant in Milton Keynes, we are lucky enough to have a kitchen filled with unique utensils, spices and ingredients that help us to prepare some of our most favourite dishes to add to our menu. However, if you’re hoping to re-create some tasty Indian dishes from the comfort of your home, not to worry, you do not necessarily need to spend a fortune on purchasing lots of equipment. There are only a few key things that you need to begin making your very own starter kit, and we have devised a list of the top ten for inspiration!
1. Essential Spice Collection
Almost every Indian dish calls for a variety of different spices; it is rare that you will only require one or two, which means that before attempting to begin cooking, you must first build up your essential spice collection. It is your choice whether you opt for purchasing a pre-made spice set or to create your own. We recommend creating your own, as it means that it can be customised to your acquired taste and any spices that you aren’t as keen on won’t be wasted!
Essential spices used in Indian dishes all come alongside a range of fantastic health benefits. This means that not only do they help to bring an aromatic taste and vibrant colour to food, but they are also contributing towards a healthy body. Listed below are the main spices that you should begin your collection with, along with their main health benefits:
- Cardamon: Helps the digestive systems and reduces inflammation.
- Clove: Anti-bacterial and an anti-inflammatory.
- Cumin: Includes high levels of iron which helps the immune system and transportation of oxygen to the lungs.
- Coriander: Lowers cholesterol, has antiseptic properties and helps those who are anaemic.
- Turmeric: A key antioxidant and known to help kill cancerous cells.
- Ginger: Includes anti-inflammatory properties and can help morning sickness.
- Cinnamon: Encourages efficient digestion of sugar to balance the body’s glucose level.
- Mustard Seeds: Can reduce the severity of asthma attacks and lowers blood pressure.
Once you have purchased all of the spices mentioned above, you may be contemplating where to store them all. A Masala Dabba is a traditional spice container which can be used for all of your most used ingredients. The Masala Dabba is made from stainless steel for durability and includes several small bowls for each spice, along with a tiny spoon which allows you to scoop the perfect amount of spice and add straight to your dish.
2. Food Processor
Many different Indian curries, such as a Masala, require the addition of curry or onion paste, which means that you need to be able to create a paste-like consistency quickly. Although a good-quality, sharp knife is capable of creating what you need, a food processor would be able to get the job done twice as quickly. It means that you can put all the ingredients you need for your paste into the food processor, switch it on and then continue to get on with the next step while it continues to mince.
Creating your own curry paste is, in fact, an easy task and once created in a large batch, can be stored away in a jar to use in the future. Curry paste does require a lot of different ingredients including almost all of the spices mentioned in the section above, along with dried chillis, garlic, tomato purée and many more. For an easy to follow curry paste recipe, take a look at BBC Good Food.
A Tawa has many similar qualities to a non-stick frying pan, however, is entirely flat and both sides are used to cook with. They vary in size depending on whether they are being used to cook on a large scale in a restaurant or just for a family at home. The most common use of a tawa is to prepare and cook traditional flatbreads such as chapatis, pitas and parathas.
During the cooking process, both sides of the tawa are heated up and can be used to fry foods or to help flatbreads rise. As they are made from either cast iron or aluminium, a tawa can retain heat for a long period of time.
4. Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers can be used to cook almost every Indian dish, which means that they are a most definite must-have if you’re looking to start recreating your own dishes. Particularly if you plan to make several different dishes to serve all at once, a good quality pressure cooker can cut down your cooking time from hours to minutes.
A pressure cooker is essentially a large sealed pot which speeds up the cooking process through utilising a high pressure of steam. There is a valve which helps to control the steam pressure inside the pot, so heat can quickly build up. Not only does the high-pressure steam raise the boiling points of the water in the pot, but it also forces moisture into the food, therefore, helping it to cook quicker.
In Indian cooking methods, a pressure cooker is used to make anything from fluffy rice to accompany curries, to tenderise meat and even cook dry lentils and beans.
Many different items that fall into the category of traditional Indian cooking equipment have striking similarities to the utensils that we use every day. They have been individually tailored however, to meet the requirements of their unique dishes and the belan is no different.
A belan is also known as the ‘Indian rolling pin’ and is ideal for making evenly thin, circular rotis, naan breads and chapatis. It is considerably thinner than a regular rolling pin and is lighter in weight with tapered edges. Due to how lightweight a belan is, it is perfect for applying pressure only to where you need it without tearing the dough.
The chimta, just like the relation between the belan and rolling pin, has an incredibly similar appearance to a pair of tongs. Depending on where you purchase the chimta from, it can either be made from iron or stainless steel; both create the same effect. The difference between a chimta and pair of tongs is that a chimta is sturdier and has pointed tips to help to pick up thin flatbreads. It is most commonly used to hold roti directly over a flame to achieve the traditional chargrilled taste.
Chimta cooking tongs are super easy to get hold of; there is even a huge selection on Amazon.
7. Tadka Pan
Tadka is a form of ‘finishing touch’ on an Indian dish and is also known as tempering. It relates to an assortment of spices, both ground and whole, which are quickly roasted in oil or ghee to make the flavours more aromatic. The tadka is then drizzled or sprinkled over the dish to add extra spice to dishes.
As the tadka is fried super quickly in piping hot oil, if cooked in a large dish, it will start to spit, running the risk of oil splatters burning you while cooking. This is where a tadka pan becomes beneficial. A tadka pan is a small, round and deep pan which only requires a small amount of oil to fry the spices. It also comes alongside a long handle, which means that you can hold the piping hot mixture far away from you when pouring over your food.
8. Spice Grinder
Although there is nothing wrong with purchasing pre-ground spices, the full flavour can only be enhanced when they are freshly ground and added straight to your ingredients. It does take a fair share of elbow grease to ensure that spices are grounded into a fine powder, so to save time we suggest using a spice grinder.
A spice grinder is, in fact, actually a coffee grinder, so if you already have one at home, then this would work perfectly well. We would highly recommend not using the same grinder you use for your coffee to grind spices because it is incredibly hard to get rid of the smell after each use, which means that the flavour will begin to intertwine.
9. Wooden Chopping Board
A chopping board is essential in any kitchen, which means that it is more than likely that you will already have one before you start creating your Indian dishes.
Wooden chopping boards are an important piece of equipment if you are hoping to bake your own flatbreads such as a chapatti, as the thin dough will not stick to the surface and tear. They will also come in handy when you are looking for somewhere to put down hot plates or pans. As wood is heat resistant, it means that anything can be placed on there while cooking making manoeuvring around the kitchen easier.
If you’re hoping to rustle up your own pakoras or samosas, then you’re going to need to invest in a Kadai. With a similar appearance to a wok, the Kadai is made using cast iron and is ideal for frying many different items of food all at once. A conventional wok is a more rounded, shallow shape, whereas a Kadai is flat at the base and has steeper sides, so samosas and pakoras can be perfectly fried.
Create Your Own Indian Dishes At Home!
Although our top ten must-haves to create your own Indian cooking starter pack does seem like a long list of purchases, they are all items that you can invest into as time goes on. You will always need to get yourself a variety of different spices to play around with, but all other pieces of equipment can be purchased as and when you would like to test them.
We hope that our guide has helped to make you just that little more eager to create your own Indian dishes. If so, why not share on social media?