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!
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.)
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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).
<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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.