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Indian cookware

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I would love some advice. I live in the Delhi area now, and am learning to cook some North Indian dishes. My in-laws are Rajasthani and use aluminum kadai pots as their go-to equipment. I think this is a more modern idea, not a traditional one.

I've been using a heavy aluminum kadai myself, but I have some concerns. One is that the surface is just plain aluminum and I am wary of getting aluminum in my food, especially because tomatoes are in virtually every dish. I'm also wary of said tomatoes harming the surface of the aluminum. This has already happened with my aluminum pressure cooker.

What is something I could use in place of the kadai that is non reactive with acidic foods, doesn't stick, distributed heat well, and doesn't cause me to ingest lots of metal?

My limited research into carbon steel woks and cast iron woks is that they are reactive.

Is there some kind of stainless steel wok/kadai shaped cooking utensil that would work? Available in India or the US? (I'm making a trip to the US soon.)

Many thanks in advance!

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  1. I don't know how important it is for the cookware to have the shape of a kadai, but I always cook Indian dishes in my All-Clad cookware saucepans.

    I just did a search for stainless kadai and came up with these websites. I didn't check them out myself...just passing along. Hope this helps...
    hospitalitywholesale.com.au
    indianspicegroceriessweets.com
    shreejindia.com

    1. I dont really think the safety concerns about aluminum are warranted. Ive been using the same aluminum caldero as my primary pot to cook indian food for more than 30 years - its great for the combination of frying then stewing/steaming that is often involved. Likewise my parents (food technologist and home economist) used uncoated aluminum pots as their primary cookware through a long, healthy married life without any concern or ill effect.. It does not stay shiny unless you polish it.and you should definitely not put it in the dishwasher, but these utensils will last virtually forever and have very good characteristics and lower maintenance than iron for this type of dish. I would not recommend iron as a substitute.

      Having said all that, if you prefer stainless, I am sure you should be able to find stainless pots in the markets in the Delhi area if you look - My Indian store in the NJ suburbs has them. .Its been too many years since Ive been in Delhi to rememberdetails but but any of the middle level shopping centers like say Lajpat Nagar, as well as malls etc should have stores with this kind of item.

      1. I think a well-seasoned carbon steel or cast iron kadai is your best bet. Once it is seasoned, there's not much transfer of metals into food. An enameled kadai (if such a thing exists) would be the only kind that could be totally nonreactive, but I don't think it would give you the kind of heat you use a kadai for. And even with the enameled kind, you'd have to be sure the materials used in enameling were non-toxic and properly applied. Apparently that cheap, flecked, lightweight blue or black enamelware commonly used for camping cookware, roasting pans and stockpots leaches all kinds of unwanted things into food, too.

        1. Great question.
          Even heating, non reactive with acids was clay pot cooking, or I think soapstone. For preparation, grinding, pounding, etc. granite was used.
          Porcelain jars were used, especially in pickle making and storing oils.
          In many cities there are people who specialize in traditional cookware. Do not use traditional cookware unless you went through extensive training. They require seasoning, and special care.

          Iron Kadai evenly heats, but is reactive with acid. They will not use iron Kadai for certain dishes!

          It depends on the dish you are making. Ask your elders, they know which vessel is used for what dish. You are correct, Indian food is high acid cooking, so you have to use the right vessel for what dish you are doing.

          1. My mother cooks both in California and India. The cookware she uses in India are: a cast iron tava for making rotis or parathas, an aluminum pressure cooker, and a carbon steel kadai for everything else.