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Appliances for Indian cooking


I have been trying to learn Indian cooking recently, and am interested in buying some equipment (blender/food processor/etc) so I can make more types of dishes. I have been researching different products all day, but I'm still not sure what is most suitable. Here are some video recipes for dishes that I'd like to make. For each, I have given a time where he uses a blender/food processor.

@ 3:50, he makes a fine powder out of some spices with a food processor

@2:31 he makes a paste with a food processor

@1:18 he uses a blender to grind roasted spices

@3:00 he uses a blender to grind a bunch of spices

Here are some specific questions:
1. In these applications, is it necessary to use specifically a blender or a food processor, or are they interchangeable in these cases?

2. Will the whole spices damage the blades of either one?

3. Can I do all of the things in those recipes with a single appliance? Or do I need to get both?

4. I had considered this food processor. Would it be appropriate? http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-FP-12...

5. I would also like to make ginger/garlic paste. Is this a job for a food processor or blender?

6. I've heard that Indian blenders/food processors process food differently than ones available in the US. Will the common brands available in the US (Cuisinart, Kitchenaid, etc) be effective for Indian food?

7. I've read in a lot of places that coffee grinders are the best thing for grinding spices, but in many of the Indian recipe videos, they seem to use a food processor or blender. Is there really a reason to have a coffee grinder in addition to the other appliances?

I know I've asked a lot of questions... any bit of help would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. I actually use a Magic Bullet for all of those things. I also own a full size food processor, but like the bullet for this type of cooking because you have so many cups to work with and you don't have to keep washing the bowl while you're prepping the food. My MIL used my magic bullet to make powders, pastes, chutneys, etc multiple times daily for six months(lucky me!) and the bullet is still alive and kicking. MB would make ginger garlic paste just fine, too..

    The blenders/food processors you are referring to in #6 are probably what are known as "wet grinders" - that's for grinding soaked dal and rice for things like dosa and idli. Plenty of people use a plain old blender. That's a pretty particular application, though, and unless you're going to make dosas and idlis weekly or more, I wouldn't spend money on that.

    Coffee grinders: you might want a smaller work b owl (like that of a coffee grinder or MB) because if the bowl is too big, the spices just get tossed around rather than back into the blade for processing.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pamelak52

      I recently bought magic bullet to try Indian cooking. I have few questions - which blade you need to use for dosa batter? Do I need to add water in little quantities while grinding


      1. re: sarahjackson110

        Hi Sarah,
        I have MB which I use mainly for masalas, ginger garlic paste and making tomato puree. But I have not used it to make dosa batter and dont think it will work as it has small cups. You can use any blender to make dosa batter. I make mine with oster blender which works fine for dosa and idli batters still not smooth like Indian mixies. Just my 2 cents.

        1. re: 2babymom

          I agree - the magic bullet is not suited for dosa batter. A regular blender would be a better bet.

    2. Reason to have an electric coffee grinder used solely for grinding things other than coffee: They don't cost much or take up a lot of space. For smaller quantities of spices ground dry as opposed to with wet ingredients, they're better than a blender or processor. They're a lot easier to clean than the other two appliances, and a lot easier to use. A mortar and pestle do the same jobs with a little more effort and time. As an alternative, consider one of the mini food processors that handle only half a cup to a cup of stuff.

      1. I won't comment on all your questions, but an inexpensive blade coffee grinder is very important for grinding up your own spices. I highly recommend you to get one. I was using the mortar and pestle, so much more work. A small coffee grinder is a must in my opinion -- and they are $15-20.

        1. We cook Indian food frequently and have only ever used a coffee grinder and a mini food processor even though I have both a blender and a full size FP.. I do like to use a pestle and mortar for making pastes, however. And yes, it does take a lot of effort but one is able to get quite a nice mash that way.

          1. <4. I had considered this food processor. Would it be appropriate? http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-FP-12... >

            The first time someone Indian brought food to my house, it was a coconut dessert in a 9 X 13 Pyrex. It was almost the same color as the Metallic Pink Cuisinart. And it had a layer of silver foil on top.

            Oh, and like most who've posted, I use a dedicated coffee grinder for spices.

            1. Agree that the blade coffee grinders work great for grinding spices. A blender will blend differently from a food processor. In some dishes it will not make a difference and in some it will.

              Also a pressure cooker is wonderful for use in making many Indian dishes.

              1. Indian food can be cooked easily with the appliances available here. You can get by with a mini-processor/blender and a coffee grinder.

                1) a food processor yields a coarse paste of onions, garlic and ginger. Using a blender will result in a fine paste. Add as little water as possible for best results. The food processor does not allow spices to be fine-ground.

                2) Use a coffee grinder to powder whole spices. Some recipes will call for a coarse powder, others for a fine powder. Adjust grind time accordingly.

                2) if you have a powerful blender like the Vitamix, you can make both fine and coarse powders and pastes with it. IMO the Vitamix closely approximates Indian blenders/food processors ( called mixies).

                1. You can purchase a Mixie on line with free shipping for between $100- $180.

                  1. I've been cooking Indian dishes for decades now, & haven't required anything but a blender, a food processor, a small electric coffee grinder, & a mortar & pestle - all of which do multiple duty for everything I cook.

                    Nothing "special" is required for Indian cuisine.

                    1. Re damaging the blades: coffee grinders are designed to grind coffee beans, which are relatively soft, but they still grind almost all spices beautifully and without any damage. I've used my $10 one for over 20 years. The one exception in my experience is cinnamon: I strongly suggest you do not try to use a coffee grinder to grind stick cinnamon into powder. It is just a little too hard and in my opinion could damage the blades. I just buy pre-ground cinnamon powder.

                      As for dosa batter, I use a food processor to grind my soaked dal and rice and my batter comes out silky smooth. Just be sure you let the food processor run for at least 2-3 minutes for each batch.

                      The one specialized tool I used for Indian cooking is a portable folding proofing box from Brod & Taylor. it is large enough to accommodate a large mixing bowl of dosa batter, its water tray keeps the environment so moist the batter doesn't even have to be covered while fermenting, and it keeps the temp at exactly 90F. It makes fermenting dosa batter trivial no matter what the wildly varying ambient temp in my kitchen.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rainier_wolfcastle

                        Which food processor do you suggest , which can make dosa batter.

                        1. re: shagufta

                          Any of the decent ones. I have a Cuisinart at home that does a fine job.
                          You do need to let it run for a bit to get the Dal ground fine.

                        2. re: rainier_wolfcastle

                          I have been using a Heating Pad under the Bowl and it works great.

                        3. Thanks everyone for the great advice!

                          I ended up getting a Preethi Eco Plus Mixer Grinder. I've used it for making pastes (from things like onions, spinach, and spices) and for grinding spices into powder. I like the fact that it has a very small mixing cup for tasks like grinding spices and larger ones for things like blending gravies.

                          This is a more in-depth review which helped me make my decision: http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/...

                          So far I'm satisfied with the purchase. I'll post an update if my opinion changes as I use the mixer more.

                          Thanks again!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: makf1127

                            Do not forget it is great for making Thai Curry Pastes, Mexican Chili and Mole Pastes as well Wet or Dry Masalas and Chutneys

                          2. Glad you found the mixer-grinder that works for you!

                            Had to smile, reading your OP: when we were newlyweds, were way too broke to even buy a blender (and no big wedding and fancy gifts). Shoot, even Madhur Jaffrey's instruction to "drain with a slotted spoon" was out of my reach--no slotted spoon. Sooo, long story/short, you can make good food--Indian or others--with next to no equipment. Now, decades later, and worlds ahead financially, I still only have a small FP, use a coffee grinder for spices, and a mortar and pestle for most pastes. Happy cooking! (I do own several slotted spoons now, and I fondly recall the days when I felt we were rich if we had aluminum foil, plastic wrap AND waxed paper!)

                            1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the original "Indian food processor" was a mortar and pestle plus a sharp knife. These are still heavily used in domestic kitchens. TV has sponsors and sponsors have expensive gadgets to sell. Consequently there is heavy reliance on those gadgets in the demonstrations.

                              You can certainly use most blender/foodprocessor examples for chopping, mixing, and making purees. Personally, I find that I only use my blender for purees of cooked mixtures, my food processor for simple doughs, a spare coffee grinder for powdering dried spices, and my mortar, mandoline, and knives for everything else.

                              The mortar does a better job of breaking down fiberous spices such as ginger and tumeric than either the food processor or blender. The mortar also does not require the addition of moisture to function; a problem that is often present with a blender. It may be that a heavier duty blender such as the Vitamix would do better than the more common and less expensive ones.

                              1. I make a fair number of pasts for curries - Sri Lankan, Indian, whatever.

                                I use whatever tool I have at hand. That might be a mortar & pestle, a blender, a stick blender, or a small food processor, and all have worked. With the stick blender in particular, I use a bottle that's just barely large enough around to fit the stick blender in - any larger, and the pieces of garlic, ginger, turmeric root, onion, or whatever, wander off and don't get incorporated into the paste as easily. The stick blender is what I have to work with now, so it's what I've been using exclusively for the last two years.

                                In Sri Lanka, I have a grinder. It's like a blender, but with much smaller blending cups, which means it's much easier to blend/make into a paste smaller amounts of stuff.

                                My mother in law will use her rolling stone grinder (think long tube of stone grinding stuff on a flat stone surface - old school Sri Lankan grinding stone.)

                                1. Hi makf,

                                  Glad to know you got a Preethi. Some thoughts and hope your critiques will be forthcoming so we can learn more about your experiences with this machine and with YOUR entry into the world of "Indian" cooking [European cooking anyone?].

                                  a) Sanjay Thumma, Vahchef, is a fantastic person, deserving thanks for 10 million reasons and more. FOr generosity and for making everything so accessible to so many. He is someone I admire with passion, not words I use for the many who have scalped the US/Western public and made fortunes with simpering, ignorant nonsense. Well, let that be. Sanjay has one great problem, besides his natural exuberance and his great hurry to get too many things completed within a very short frame of time. That can be a strength and a weakness. The weakness shows in the hotel training, where the fine technique and careful cooking has never been taught and slapdash hotel methods have been inculcated which teach more-or-less OK methods. FINESSE IS ALWAYS LACKING, ALWAYS! Sorry, Sanjay, and this comes from your fervent fan and well-wisher.

                                  When you grind spices in a coffee grinder, several problems arise. I really don't care who else below claim how many decades they have been cooking "Indian" or whether cinnamon grinds or does not, because I do the same every day, and find no problems! But the execution with coffee-grinder powders is not worthy of high quality cooking. The textures are annoying, and flavors are unsound. Probably not to many, but to those who have grown up with stone-ground spices, they are! This is where your stone-grinder MAY or MAY not be able to help you out. I don't know, ask Preethi users.

                                  In a proper Bangali kitchen for example, a Rarh kitchen, some basic spices will be always available in a wet paste.

                                  Dry red chilies, de-seeded, and you can use Korean Kochukaru for their Cleanliness, freshness and flavor, combined with red coloradito and Indian red chilies, soaked in water. Grind them up, and keep them in a ball, frozen if need be.

                                  Turmeric rhizomes, dry, soaked and ground. This is the most difficult one, and you may wish to substitute fresh turmeric, with some trepidation. Turmeric powder is a somewhat of an abomination, with the exception of McCormicks, whose extortionate prices are an abomination.

                                  Washed, unroasted, INDIAN, not Moroccan, coriander seed, ground to a paste in the stone grinder. How do you tell? One is round, the other is oval. Ask if they are the produce of India. Coriander seed grinds poorly in the coffee grinder, leaving gritty bits of fibrous coat and cotyledons that entirely destroy the emaning of Indian gravies. Certain classical qormas use coriander paste and ginger paste to thicken, and this does not happen with coffee grinder and oster blender spices. As Lucky Fatimaji knows, I cook only a few genres with painful exactitude, and really do not care who claims what about their personal fame & expertise. I have cooked these for more than 46 years, under so many different conditions, and have come to know their cookery rather too well. I shall defer to the traditional ustads and their trained shagirds. None else. Period.

                                  Cumin, washed, untoasted, stone-ground. Even the roasted cumin, I grind in the coffee grinder, but it is not good enough for serious banquet cooking, OK for personal meals. You will notice immediately that the plastic cover of the coffee grinder is always coated with a superfine layer of dust of whatever you are grinding. The bowl contain the ground mixture in at least 3 fractions. The finest at the bottom, the medium-fine at the center, and the coarsest somewhere either at the top or at the bottom, depending on the species of seeds. This is fine for black peppercorns, where you can shake up the bowl and decant the the grinds, using the different coarsenesses to your advantage. With things like cumin and coriander, this does not work well, and most certainly NOT with dry mustard!!!!!

                                  Black peppercorn, the important last leg of the Bangali "dhone-jeerey-morich": this is NOT Bangladeshi, but Rarhi brahman cooking, that eschews all garlic and onion, and depends solely on these 3 spices for almost all its cookery, adding and subtracting ginger, and whole cardamom, cassia and clove, cassia leaf etc. and other whole seeds.

                                  Mustard, black [large] and white, washed, soaked, always, always, ground with a thai green chili and some sea salt, always.

                                  Along with the seed pastes, GINGER is ground with scant water, and GARLIC never allowed to touch any grinding stone. You will also find not using GROUND garlic paste a relief from the onerous burden of the "fry ginger garlic paste". It makes food heavy, and taste the same. Try chopped garlic instead and be pleasantly surprised at how much lighter your food tastes. If you don't like it, go back to the blunderbuss regime of "ginger and garlic paste" and tons of tomato drowning out all flavor. Remember, garam masala and these types of cooking were invented by circumstances I do not care to describe. In normal home cooking, ONE cardamom, ONE clove, a tiny piece of cassia etc. is used!!!!!! They are expensive, and in many circles, NO garam masala is allowed to be eaten. Just helping you understand the context of real Indian food eaten by real Indian people, i.e. 1.1 billion out of the 1.2 billion!!!! You can challenge my words and take it to the court of the Indian public, not the cookbook writers!!

                                  I have had a small coffee grinder in which I grind small quantities of coriander, cumin, cassia, cinnamon [true], black and green cardamom, pepper, and all Indian spices, every week. I cook Indian for the most part, 90% of the time. I have not damaged my machine, God forbid, but I am very careful with all my equipment, knives, spatula, etc. and they seem to reciprocate the care and tenderness in spades! Longevity proves nothing, one way or the other.

                                  Please choose a particular regional cuisine you like and cook it often. Find some good native practitioners and learn directly from them if possible. There are so many Indians floating around, it will be entirely probable you will be able to find one nearby. For example, my friend from North Carolina brought me some chapatis prepared by a lady who runs a catering business in Raleigh. We sampled the wares of several such home-based caterers and decided that one lady's chapattis were absolutely superb. Chapattis are merely whole wheat and water, perhaps a little salt. Most North Indian types lack even the oil preferred in Gujarat. This lady had the special touch, and was wonderful. She would be the person I should unhesitatingly recommend as a teacher in her genre of cooking. She probably could not write a smarmy, nonsense cookbook, but she surely can cook better than most I have seen. Serious cooks should make a beeline for her and study vegetarian cooking techniques, the basics. Not the rubbish Indian Chinese and weird biryanis and stuff she serves on clients' demands. Learn the latter from some amazing Pakistani/Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims who are really trained and talented. They hide their glory under deep bushel baskets, and the language/cultural barrier ensures that it might forever remain so.

                                  My beef is with the poseurs on TV shows and simpering fools who have captured the Western imagination [and purses]!. Their name is "legion"! What a disappointment these are, with the exception of Julie Sahni and a few truly regional ones. Zero, Zero, ZERO technique, whereas Indian cooking is ALL ABOUT the technical details.

                                  This chapatti was a genius in terms of technique and perfect execution. The same applies with dosa and idlis, e.g. http://mangalaskitchen.blogspot.in/20...

                                  Please perfect technique.