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Desi-style kitchenware
by Savia Rajagopal
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 8:10 PM
Can't tell a kadhai from a katori? Look no further as we translate some traditional South Asian kitchenware into a language you understand...

South Asian cooking employs kitchen ware that serves a purpose of its own. We help you navigate the tricky isle of essential desi kitchen ware and why they’re so popular. Read on and get the low-down on all tools culinary…

Belan: Typical Bollywood stereotypes involve a crazy woman holding this rolling pin aloft, while a shaking husband hides cowering. In real life, however, the belan or the rolling pin, serves a much simpler purpose: that of rolling out flour dough (atta) to make thin or thick bread (rotis or naan).

The width of the rolling pin varies according to need and personal preference. The heavier rolling pins are used to roll out bigger chunks of dough for parathas and naan.

Nowadays, there are glass rolling pins also available that allow the use to put ice into the pin to keep the dough cold while being rolled out. This is used more for pastry and other confectionary dough. While pretty, this rolling pin is fragile and not recommended for regular use.


A chakla is just a stone or wooden board used to roll out the dough. The stone boards are available in marble while the wooden ones are available in mahogany, cheery or plain wood. Nowadays, metallic boards are also available in nickel and other material.


A sieve, the chalni is used to sift flour. The size depends on the quantity of flour being used and whether the flour has been ground at home, or is store bought.


A chimti, is a pair of tongs, used to cook rotis and naan, over the gas top. Used traditionally to handle the bread, over the tandoor or coal stove, the chimti now finds its modern version similar to that of salad tongs.


Made famous thanks to its appearance on menus everywhere, the degchi essentially is a cooking pot made of brass or copper. The neck is fairly narrow while the bottom is wide. Nowadays, the degchi is made of a aluminum or stainless steel while the base is still made of copper or brass.

Hamam Dasta

A hamam dasta is a mortar and pestle, used to pound aromatic spices. The old-style mortar and pestle were made of stone and were fairly heavy to carry. The newer versions of the mortar pestle are made of metal and are easier to clean and maintain. Purists however swear that authentic flavours and aromas can only be had, if you use a stone mortar and pestle.


A handi is a kind of degchi because it also is a heavy-bottomed cooking pot. The thick base prevents food from getting stuck at the bottom and allows cooking at high temperatures. The wide bottom of the handi allow for even cooking and the lid helps seal in all the flavours and aroma.


A kadhai refers to a wok, used for frying and cooking different ingredients. This wok however, is not to be confused with a Chinese wok, that is lighter and usually much bigger in size. The kadhai should be deep to allow for deep frying as well. Kadhai’s nowadays are made from non-stick materials to allow easier cleaning and reduced use of oil.


A katori is a bowl used for various purposes. From being used to serve vegetables and dals or gravy, bowls were also used for serving dessert. Traditionally, these bowls were made metal like stainless steel or copper or brass. Nowadays, glass bowls can be found in kitchens across the world.

Masala dabba

A popular favourite, this storage container is made of stainless steel or aluminum and contains 6 or 7 smaller bowls that hold the spice essentials: chilli powder (mirchi), turmeric powder (haldi), coriander powder (dhania), cumin powder (jeera), mustard seeds (rye), asafoetida (hing) and cumin seeds (jeera). Some cooks prefer to include garam masala as well into this essentials kit. The stainless steel container is said to preserve the aroma and flavours of the spices, and also doubles up as a convenient way to have all spices within reach.


A pakkad is the same as a chimti or tongs.


A tava is a flat girdle used to cook or roast South Asian bread or rotis. The tava is used especially to create light, fluffy North India phulkas or thin, small Gujarati rotis. Chapatis and parathas are also made on this flat, metallic pan.


A thaali refers to a stainless or other metallic plate with a high ridge or edge.

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