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Kerala Brass Pans (Re Anthony Bourdain No Reservations)

Does anyone know about the pans that were on his last episode? I can't seem to find much on the web about them, but on the show he referred to them as the Le Creuset of India which I realize is a ridiculous generalization, however, the pans look cool.

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  1. Saw the show as well. I would imagine your best bet would be to ask at an Indian market but even they might not know what you're talking about. Of course, you can always take a quick trip over to India.

    1. Costplus World Markets carries a lot of Indian imports. I've seen various stainless steel pans and serving dishes, but don't recall seeing any brass ones.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        These are big heavy brass pots that are wide and shallow. No handles like western cookware. Here's a picture of one, and though I can't remember the name they referred to on the show but this one is called an Urli.


        Edit: after searching brass urli and Indian urli, your results will widen significantly.

      2. Thanks very much for the replies.

        1. I saw the Bourdain Kerala episode as well and I would love to own such amazing cookware and support that traditional cottage industry. Supposedly the food cooked in such vessels is extra good.

          Within India, most people do not use expensive traditional metal cookware like copper, bronze, silver and brass (and lead!!! supposedly lead produces very delicious dishes) and at least in my personal observation I have only seen people having brass vessels in their homes for religious purposes. A lot of modern Indian cookware is aluminum or hindoleum (some type of aluminium alloy which I am not sure what it really is but it is great for cooking and I have not seen it outside of India except imported to Pakistan---this is the kind my mother-in-law looks for). And also stainless steel, Tefal non-stick and the like. Brass is just hard to find in the quality and size of what was featured in the episode (as it is very expensive). Even in India at least in big cities you have to go to special bazaars to get heavy, good quality vessels because much of what is on offer is just cheap light weight aluminum. This is the same low quality type of stuff I have seen at Indian specialty markets in the Arabian Gulf and in the US Indian markets. You can probably find stainless steel urlis online which will be the highest quality at a reasonable price. Part of the benefit of these traditional vessels is not only the metal but the shape, so you would still get the urli shape. I have never seen an urli in an Indian market in the US, mostly just karhais and handis (North Indian) and idli, dosa, puttu paraphernelia for South Indians.

          I googles and found this stainless steel urli set, but it just looks like a handi with handles, not nearly as exciting as what was on No Reservations:


          I know this info doesn't help anyone find a Keralite brass vessel, but just to give an idea of why you can't just get this at your local South Indian grocery...

          1 Reply
          1. re: luckyfatima

            Yeah. I think I'll just plan a trip to go there. An India walkabout for a year. Pick up a pan while I am there.

          2. I've located a restaurant supplier, shalimarorlando.com who design/consult/sells Indian ovens for home use and have asked tham to watch the show and find the brass urlis. From their website they appear to be innovative and enterprising, so we'll see what they come up with. Let them know of your interest to get them going. Those terrific urli artisans who make the "Le Creuset" of India, as Tony said surely need the work. Let's cook some South India Food!

            Does anyone know the name of the restaurants in London that Tony's colleague owns or the village that he and the urlis come from?

            1. I'm watching a rerun of the episode right now and as soon as I saw the Urli, I started googling. WANT. Somebody could make a mint.

              1 Reply
              1. re: martyparty

                This is one possible source to at least try to get one at; http://www.shopindiaondemand.com/ It says "Anything You Want "

              2. I thought maybe if someone got the man's name who purchases 5-10 each trip, was selling them?

                1. I contacted a website 'shopindiaondemand.com' they added the pots to their catalog online. They are brass and just beautiful. They are listed as Urli - Kerala Cooking Vessel. They come in 3 sizes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. 'Saw the urli on shop India and asked them some additional questions about the pans. Can you Chow folks recommend definitive cookbooks or recipe sitesfor Kerala-style cuisine? I can get only so far asking the southern Indian guys who run my local Indian market. If i'm going to blow a couple hundred bucks on an urli, I ought to have some stellar recipes up the sleeve of my salwar!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Mom the Foodie

                      This book Greens, Grains, and Grated Coconuts by Ammini Ramachandran is amazing, probably the best Indian food-culture-recipes book I have ever read, even though I am not even a huge fan of Keralite cuisine. I mean, this book is fantastic. You will deeply understand vegetarian Keralite cooking and food culture after reading this book:


                      1. re: Mom the Foodie

                        Psst... "salwar" is the pants part of a "salwar kameez". "Kameez" is the top tunic part. :)

                        I've had this Kerela recipe site bookmarked for a while: http://www.pachakam.com/.

                        1. re: boogiebaby

                          Oops, you're right. I'm no ugly American, but like most, ignorant of much Indian Culture, particularly since my Indian-American friends and contacts are so assimilated. Thanks for the correction & recipe link.

                      2. Here's some positive info from Shop India. They appear to be on the trail of what we're all looking for. I'd really like to get the specific urlis featured on the show and give those artisans some business. Here's the Info:

                        "This product is the contemporary traditional vessel used for cooking in Kerala. Bell metal is an alloy of Bronze and Copper as described in the wikipedia. This metal has been used in cooking utensils for ages in India. The only restriction I have heard of thus far is that food cooked in these vessels should be removed and stored away - rather than being left in the utensil.

                        We have been trying to watch the episode you are referring to so that we are able to see the exact vessel that was shown. Do you by chance have a link where I can watch the exact episode you are referring to, in its entirety? The exact episode number/name would help as well (the episode number given by another customer turned out to be wrong). That will help a lot in determining how close the item we have listed is to what you are looking for. We watched this snippet. But it doesn't have very many details. "

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Mom the Foodie

                          I'll poke around in Little India here in NYC while I'm down there next Monday and see if any of the shops there have them and report back. I had wanted one, not for cooking, but to use as a sink in my guest bathroom. I had played a party (singer) at a house last year and they had found an American-made pewter sink that looked exactly like an Urli. I found the exact same one online and it cost 1700 bucks (!!!!). I figure a real Urli would not only be cheaper, but more authentic.

                          1. Like most of you, I saw the cookware on Bourdain's show and loved it. I just bought one from:


                            Price was $199 (which is _well_ inline with pricing for La Crueset/All Clad/et. al.

                            Be warned, they say it'll take many weeks to get to you. Knowing me, I'll have completely forgotten that I ordered it and it will be like an unexpected XMas gift when it does arrive!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ChewChewChew

                              Thank Chew!
                              You have found the Indian food-ie version of the holy grail. Not only do I want one, but wouldn't it make a fab wedding gift for a cooking couple? What are your thoughts on the uses of the different sizes? Thanks, Mom

                              P.S. Indian food Chowhounds, I just used a couple of tablespoons of Panch Puran in my St. Pat's corned beef dinner (as well as telicherry bl. pepp.). It gave the stew a nice, rich and mellow flavor.

                              1. re: Mom the Foodie

                                My pot came in! I got it a couple of weeks ago. It is exactly as pictured on the Website. I can't imagine cooking in it as it would likely discolor quickly, no?

                                1. re: ChewChewChew

                                  Hi, CCC:

                                  If it is indeed bell metal (an alloy, commonly 4:1 copper to tin), it will not tarnish or oxidize quickly, but it will happen--at which time you polish it.

                                  I note that it is available here in USA, which would indicate FDA, EPA, FTC, CPSC, etc. consider it safe to cook in. Personally, I would cook in it, but refrain from cooking highly acidic dishes like long, tomato-based simmers or storing food in it.

                                  However, FYI, it should be understood that daily, exclusive use of these in feeding infants milk that was transported, stored and boiled in them has been implicated (not proven) to result in liver disease in Indian children by way of excess copper intake.

                                  If it makes you more comfortable about using it, most Americans could use a little more copper in their diet.


                                  PS It sure is beautiful.

                                2. re: Mom the Foodie

                                  By the way, the packaging was exquisite! Cotton covering a box and padding. Better than an iPhone.

                              2. I found some gorgeous urli pots on this site that reminded me of the one from the episode:


                                Pages 5-7 have a bunch of these. However they are not for cooking, only for decorative purposes, and they appear to be made of bronze and not brass. Some of them do note that they are made of the ancient wax casting way by hand. No prices are listed though; you have to contact them for that. I've never heard of this company either so who knows how reliable it is, but the site seems pretty modern.