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Written by: Jennifer Kumar, Cultural Adjustment Coach
Monday, May 24, 2010

From Vegetarian Cuisine

By Cross-Cultural Coach, Jennifer Kumar

Many recipes from India can be made using everyday cooking utensils that Americans use for American cooking in their kitchens. However, there are some special utensils that can be added to the kitchen to make Indian cookery easier or more authentic tasting. I am offering below a store with a wide listing of utensils, gadgets and appliances I use to make Indian food in my kitchen in America. It is not exhaustive as Amazon has yet to add things like idli pans (right), tumblers,

south Indian coffee filters, chapati tawa, dosa griddle, dhokla pans, Indian size and shape metal and wooden frying utensils, and more regional items like the Kerala chirattu puttu maker (right) or the tubular puttu maker. Luckily for some items, American utensils can be replaced- such as for dosa griddle or chapatai tava, we can use a regular frying griddle pan. It would cook differently and sometimes better on the Indian made ones, but we can get a good outcome with the American cookery gadgets, too.

From Vegetarian Cuisine
The most popular dish of south India is the dosa or idli. This is made by soaking rice and dhal, then grinding into a fine paste, and setting out about eight hours in a good, hot climate to rise and ferment. It is either placed in the idli pans (above) and inside a pressure cooker with water (no weight), or in a special idli steamer, or spread on a griddle just like any American pancake. In the past I have used American blenders like Oster, and the Magic Bullet (which I also used to grind dosa powders and masalas or curry powders) with descent outcomes. However, it was only when I purchased the Butterfly mixie grinder, the results have been outstanding. Recently, too, I have found alternate ways to make idli without the traditional steel idli stand! I have used one of two methods- the egg poacher pan - metal/steel type (image, below in table, left) or the silicone variety (in table, right). With the silicone egg poachers, I first set a silicone vegetable steamer 'tray' in the bottom of the pan (to provide space between the bottom of the pan and the items to be steamed), then set the poacher inserts on top of that. In both methods, we get the idli taste, the idli feel is a bit different as the shape differs. I have to steam them at different lengths of time because the shapes in both of these 'western methods of idli making' are thicker and the round shape a bit smaller, so a bit more compact. One thing to keep in mind- with using egg poachers for idli, make sure the pan you use has a glass top that has a hole on it to release steam, this works similiar to the pressure cooker with the weight removed. The other plus point of using these western gadgets is two-fold- less oil is required in both methods (silicone is non-stick naturally, and the egg poachers are non-stick material) and the clean-up a bit easier. (Some may argue, though, the traditional idli pan is better health-wise, especially when compared to the non-stick coating on the egg poacher (pan), and not sure what chemicals may seep in from silicone poachers). Make the decision that is best for you.  (

Idli Project
See the silicone egg poachers I used.
See the silicone steamer I used.


See the Fagor 4-Piece Egg Poacher Set.

If you are new to this idli- see this idli/dosa photologue and recipe write- up.) Along with the idli, the same batter for some (including me) is used for making dosa (crepes) or utthapam (crepes with chopped vegetables), in the past, I used a non-stick pan until I saw my friend's mom use a very unique pan. The pan she used was a flat cast iron skillet, but without a handle. She said this kind, that fit right over the burner was the traditional Kerala cast iron skillet, which was good to use because less oil was require than a non-stick pan (which surprised me) and it would also provide some nutrients from the pan. The cast iron skillets found in America all have handles, that I could find, I have put an image of one from Amazon in the table below. It is very similar to the one I have, but I got mine from Target Since I began using the cast iron skillet for dosa, I do use a lot less oil, the dosa also cooks WAY faster (I have an electric stove), and it comes out generally much crispier. The only thing now is I have to find the best way to clean it! :)





Here are a few other American bought items I have integrated into Indian cookery: The Oxo Good Grips 3-Inch Mini Strainer, I have used to strain tea leaves. To strain pieces out of oil after making pakodas, bondas, vadas, I use the Norpro 5 1/2-Inch Stainless Steel Funnel . When I buy those huge bags of Ponni or Idli rice, I store it in these large Sterlite Locked lid containers.

Likewise, I like to store dhals, dried beans like chole, rajmah (kidney beans), kadala, and even flours, like rice, maida, atta and besan in lock and lock boxes or sterlite lock lids, smaller size boxes. I have started to grind dosa podis, currys, masalas, spice mixes and sambar powders in the Butterfly mixie grinder. However, before I had this, I used a coffee grinder and a mortar and pestle with descent results. Pressure cookers are used for many items in Indian cooking. I have a small Hawkins Aluminum Pressure Cookers - 1.5 Literschole masala. For making sambar, larger quantities of dhal, steaming dhokla and idlis, I use a bigger PRESTIGE POPULAR- 6 Liter Pressure Cooker. Though you can use a pressure cooker to make rice, dhal and steam veggies all at once by adding in pressure cooker insert pans, one can also make rice and steam veggies in this handy dandy Joyce Chen 4 in 1 Microwave Rice Steamer. I read the directions say popcorn can also be made in this! Have yet to try. Another option for making rice is an electric rice cooker.

If you're looking for a pot with a dual purpose of cooking and serving sambar, stew, pongal or similar dishes, try the pot to the right! I got it a few weeks ago, and love it! When I saw the pot, I wanted to go back again and again for more sambar, mostly because the pot is so cute! I like how the pot handle's have a silicone coating on the inside part (think that is it). Because of that I did handle the pot without potholders.

These are just a few ideas I have experience with. I would like to learn more. If you have creative solutions to integrating American utensils into Indian cooking, please leave your comments below. I really appreciate you reading my blog and sharing your thoughts and experience with me!!




To see this store in another browser, click here (the code given overflows this frame)


Jennifer Kumar is a cross-cultural teacher, trainer and lifestyle adjustment mentor helping people adjust to American and global lifestyles through a variety of methods, including Indian cooking classes. She was educated in India as a social worker and in America as a life coach. Feel free to see her website - Authentic Journeys - Lifestyle and Cultural Transition Services.


Updated January 2011

Copyright ©2010 Jennifer Kumar, LMSW Cultural Adjustment Coach/Mentor


4 comments so far...

Re: Create Your Own Indian Inspired Kitchen in America

Nice post! I think we have that same cast iron pan! My mother in law thinks it it great and loves to use it when she visits. We use it for uthappa. I never heard of one without a handle before.

Mini food processors are extremely useful and we love our Cuisinart Pressure Cooker (definitely could not live without that).

By minnesotameetskarnataka on   Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Re: Create Your Own Indian Inspired Kitchen in America

Thank you, minnesotameetskarnataka...
Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I would have to check into cuisineart brand pressure cooker! :) Good tip. Thanks.

By admin on   Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Re: Create Your Own Indian Inspired Kitchen in America

Another nice recipe to try on my rice cooker. But I definitely agree with Minnesotameeskarnataka, Cuisineart Brand Pressure is the best one. :)


By cheap 5 cup rice cooker on   Monday, December 03, 2012

Re: Create Your Own Indian Inspired Kitchen in America

I was considering an egg poacher to make idlis. Yours looks shallow enough for them to get well steamed. However, the cups portrayed on the stainless steel pans I liked on Amazon seem rather deep, so I'm worried about the idlis getting cooked. Do you have any particular product you would suggest I look at before making a purchase?

Thanks for this useful blog essay.

By Nalini on   Saturday, June 11, 2016

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