Indian food is an earthy and delicate mix of regional cuisines which relies heavily on vegetarian principles and indigenous ingredients. Curry is the spice most commonly associated with India, but there are a wide variety of spices and herbs used to give Indian food its uniquely layered flavors.
As with many regional cuisines, you will need a few pieces of special equipment in order to use the correct preparation and cooking techniques to give your Indian cuisine authentic flavors and textures. Most of the equipment can be improvised from traditional Western cookware, but some cannot.
The first thing you need is a good spice grinder. A coffee grinder will also work, but only if it has been thoroughly cleaned of coffee and can be used only for spices from then on. Many spices used in Indian cooking taste freshest right after they are ground and some, like whole coriander, are too hard to grind with a mortar and pestle. Others, like ginger and garlic, can be ground in a mortar and pestle, but use one made of marble or other stone because wooden ones absorb flavors.
A chakla belan is a light, wooden rolling pin and round board used to make chapatti and other breads. The light rolling pin is necessary because using a heavier one can make the dough stick too much. The round board helps to guide you as to the shape of the bread and keeps the size consistent.
A large cast iron frying pan is best for cooking most Indian breads, but a good, sturdy aluminum or copper pan will also work. Stainless steel is not as good for making Indian bread because of the way it conducts heat.
Using a tortilla warmer to hold unleavened Indian breads after they are cooked will keep them piping hot and ready to serve. A casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid will also work in a pinch.
Many Indian foods require stirring while they are cooking, so invest in sturdy, metal long-handled spoons. At least one solid one and one slotted one is needed, along with at least one ladle. Long locking tongs are also useful for turning foods, as is a quality metal spatula.
To get the authentically layered flavors that build through cooking different foods together in one pan, you may want to invest in a traditional karai. This is very much like a Chinese wok, in that it has a rounded bottom and high, sloping sides. Check carefully to make sure that the karai will sit securely on your stove burners. If you have any doubts, woks come with rings to adapt them to Western cookers, so substitute a wok and wok ring. You can also use a large sautt pan, as this is similar to a frying pan except that is deeper and has straight sides, but if you can manage it, a karai is best.
Many Indian sauces require long, slow cooking over medium heat to reduce and thicken properly and for this you will need a stock pot or Dutch oven. The key is a thick, flat bottom, straight sides and a tight-fitting lid.
Pressure cookers are coming back into style after a long hiatus and a high quality one is essential for Indian cooking. They are available in both electric and stovetop models. There are also different types of tops to choose from. Some fit over the outside of the pot and others fit inside. Some tops have a steady steam release valve while others release steam at timed intervals with short whistles. Many traditional Indian cooks time their recipes by how many whistles to listen for.
As with any cuisine, the key component is a reliable, high quality cooker, so the culinary experts at Indian Food highly recommend visiting Cookers and Ovens to check out their full selection of Rangemaster Classic Deluxe ovens to ensure perfect quality every time.