Best Kitchen products for US newbies from India

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Times fly very fast. It’s a year and a month since I came to the US. I think nobody forgets their first flying experience, especially if you are a bride travelling alone with heavy duty baggage. Haa… how I wished I travelled light! Since I travelled alone I had to trolley two mammoth check-in suitcases, a tightly zipped hand luggage (which would tear itself out if somebody lifts it fast), handbags, a hand purse and jerkins, all by myself. I felt like I did not have strength to push the trolley even until the check-in counter. It was like pushing two overgrown, utterly adamant boys on a small unfitting trolley. When my turn came to check-in the luggage, the lady in the counter sweetly said ‘Ma’am both your check-in luggage are overweight. Please make changes, and then I will help you’.

 

I gasped. I was requested to move to the side away from the check-in queue. I felt upset that I had to disturb the packing that was set neat and clean inside my suitcase. At home, my dad helped me with packing the luggage spending hours to organize the storage. He organized the storage so well that no object inside the suitcase would get hurt when they handle it in the loading section. I felt annoyed and delicate to open the baggage in front of the queue. With all hesitation I opened the baggage. Out came the stout idli pot, the deep and fat wok, the zip locked murukku, the zip locked curry masaal jaamaan, the paniyaram satti, shining ever-silver tumblers, new plates, spatulas, a box of paal halwa which was hidden inside another stout little pot etc…etc… and etcetera…. I did not know which one to remove. I need them ALL.

 

More than my dresses I realized it was my utensils and vessels that occupied my baggage (as a bride, I thought that was what is needed Smile with tongue out) As I raided my suitcase I had thoughts that the people in the queue must be having an amusing time watching me struggle. Then I saw one other bride like me struggling with her luggage. She too was sent out from the queue to lighten her suitcase. he he… I felt happy since I now had a partner. She opened her bag wide open and I had a glimpse of saw what all she had. She had mixie jars, tawas, tea filters (one yellow, one pink – but why two? may be, she’s too organized and uses one to strain tea and another to strain juice, who knows. Or was that something else I saw :D), hey! idli pots too and etc .. etc and ETCETERA Open-mouthed smile Just like me! How we tackled to check-in the over weighed luggage successfully was another big story.

 

The thing is, given the baggage weight constraint; we won’t be able to bring our ‘Indian kitchen’ boxed in just two suitcases to the US or to any other continent. In fact, during my travel I was not able to carry the two vital kitchen gadgets required for Indian cooking – the grinder and the mixie. But I brought with me quite lot of vessels, pressure cooker, even the heavy weight dosa stone Nerd smile. In this post I’ve shown what all essential kitchen items I brought from India and purchased after coming to the US. I’ve listed the kitchen items which have satisfied my expectations. If you’re a new bride flying from India or if you’re an Indian couple just landed in the US or if you’re a desi whose stay in the US has been extended to long term or if you are one among my readers who asked for suggestions on best wet grinder to purchase/best mixer grinder to purchase or if you’re that anybody wishing to practice Indian cooking, then my list will sure help you!

 

Every image has a quick link associated to its corresponding Amazon page, making it easier for you to review the product. Take time to read through the reviews in the given links and then decide to purchase them. Personally I adore them all.

 

A busy morning in an Indian kitchen starts with the high-pitched whistles from a pressure cooker. This shrill sound from the cooker whistle had been the morning alarm to us, the kids. Many of our staples are normally cooked for 3 whistles in the pressure cooker. So I use the whistle count as my snooze button, waiting until the 3rd whistle to wake up from the bed. Though the whistles sometimes abort our early morning dreams, though it reminds us to wake up to prepare for the class test, though the pressure that shrills out from the whistle pressures us to get ready to catch the school bus, the smell of the cooked dal (lentils) or the mild pulao (which Amma makes with chilies, garlic and coconut milk) or the flavorful vegetable rice from the pressure cooker will make us forgive the whistling sound. The whistle sound and the aroma from the pressure cooker is enough to make us fresh. Need no coffee or flavored milk to freshen up our early-morning-dull-heads.

 

Here you meet the Indian pressure cooker, the Prestige pressure cooker. I brought with me the one which was gifted for my wedding. At home we have a big one, should be over 6 liters capacity. We also still use another pressure cooker (Hawkins), a 10++ liter giant which grandma gifted for mom’s wedding. 

 

Next on the list is mixer grinder (or Mixie, as we call it in India). Which is the Best mixer grinder for Indian Cooking? Before answering to that, a question to you; raise your hands if you’re the kind who cannot live without idlis, dosas, chutneys and curry. You ask me? I swear I cannot live without them. I was such a dunce that I landed in the US without bringing with me an Indian mixer grinder. Ah, I know, one can make chutney and dosa variety even without a mixie or a blender, but my taste buds would not listen to it. So we had to sit tight waiting for the right time to purchase an Indian mixie. We waited so that we could buy them at a lower price if somebody puts it for sale on Craigslist or any other Indian community portal/forum. One or two girls actually did, but even if we call them the moment after they post the ad, we only got a reply, ‘sorry it’s sold’ or ‘sorry I’m removing the ad, c’z I dropped the plan of selling my mixie’. Such is the demand for an Indian mixie!

 

After keeping my taste buds waiting for 3 months, I decided to buy the Indian mixie (blender) from Amazon. We’ve been using Sumeet, Meenu, Preethi (these are mixer grinder brand names Smile) and Panasonic for years at home. Sumeet mixie worked for years in my paternal grandma’s home. Meenu mixie lived for eons in my maternal grandma’s house which was then replaced by Preethi mixer grinder. Mom is now using Panasonic mixie. Personally, I liked Preethi mixie, so opted for it. Then, on a warm spring evening, arrived the Preethi mixie which I ordered in Amazon. Ah… what a joy… what a joy! String of chutney recipes took its place in my blog. Not just that, not just that… for past 10 months I’ve also been using this mixer grinder for grinding idli batter, dosa batter, adai batter, vadai batter, masala powders, chutney powder, extracting coconut milk and the list goes on and on… It’s doing its best job every time I use it.

 

However, a mixie won’t suit if you wanted to grind large quantity of batter. What? Are you giving me the choice of getting readymade idly-dosa batter from grocery stores? I say, ‘bad idea’. Prove yourselves by recording your 10-months-spending you made on store-bought-batter against the cost of mixer grinder or even against the cost of a table-top wet grinder. Table-top wet grinders are the best if you plan to bring your family for a holiday. If you try to make idli-dosa batter with mixie (blender) it can’t handle a crowd of 5 or more people. It’s good that you buy a table top grinder or ask your parents/friends to get it from India when they travel. At home we use Ultra wet grinder. Ultra grinder does a good job. It’s fast. But the down side is it heats up the batter. My friends have got Premier wet grinders. Will update few review points of Premier wet grinder once I find it from my friends.

 

 

 

Best Crepes are those that are homemade. Best crepes are those whose batter is prepared in a stone mortar. But the Bestest crepes are those that are made in an iron dosa tawa (we call it dosai kal). If you weren’t lucky enough to carry this iron tawa from India, here is an option. This griddle gives more or less the same result. I’ve seen my sister using this griddle to make dosas. When we gathered for a pot luck, one of my friends used it to prepare the pav for pav bhajis. I’m planning to get this griddle so that I can make multiple rotis, dosas, pancakes or some breads and eggs on them.

Another secret behind South-Indian Dosas (Crepes) is the oil that is used. At home amma always uses Sesame oil/Gingely oil (nallennai) for dosas and other seasoning works for chutneys, gravies etc. Whenever we both are on phone talking about food and cooking, she asks me if I follow her advice on using only nallennai (sesame oil) for cooking (except deep frying works). We’re using Idhayam Gingely oil for years. However, we also like using Anjali oil and Sastha gingely oil. Guys, you need not get this online, because it’s really costly getting it online. Try spotting them in Indian grocery stores. Almost all Indian grocery stores in the US has them in their shelves. I’m listing it here since it came to my mind  while talking about Idlis, Dosas and stuff.

 

If you’re a South-Indian, you will find this electric rice cooker very handy. While the dal is getting ready in your pressure cooker, the electric rice cooker will  make your rice ready. You see how these gadget thingies are working together to prepare lunch/dinner on time for you? They are like faithful servants working for their master Hot smile. Although, at home amma uses an open pot to make rice, I bought this electric cooker so that I need not spend much time in the kitchen.

Another nice thing about coming to the US is baking. Every house will be furnished with a big oven. You tend to browse baking recipes and would like to try them out. In fact I splurged few bucks in the name of baking, but especially in order to give approximate measurements for my readers who are following my recipe. Like I said in my vanilla cake recipe post, when it comes to baking, I obey the measurements in a recipe. In fact I tried my own cake only after getting these measuring cups and spoons (a bit overboard right? Smile with tongue out).

 

There are many many ‘nice-to-have-in-the-kitchen’ items, especially when you indulge in baking (an exclusive post on it will be soon in CookingJingalala). If you wanted to make soft cakes, nicely beaten egg whites will do the trick. You may need a good hand mixer for that. I have the black one shown in the below picture.

 

Oh and did I forget to tell about the baking pans? Nerd smile The baking set shown below is a basic set. You may choose any other set that has a pizza pan with it and try baking my pizza too. If you’re a house wife, baking is one good hobby (but yeah, do not get addicted else you’ll end up paying two tickets for your weight when you return back to India Winking smile). If you’re in a job, no harm in shooting a WFH (working from home) mails and enjoy baking, what say? Sarcastic smile

If you’re new to cooking, once you explore and start practicing the recipes you’ll understand soon that cooking is all about measuring the ingredients precisely. That’s why I got the measuring cups, spoons, why even this cute kitchen scale lately. You won’t believe even if I said this dialog again and again; ‘I got this food scale ONLY FOR my food blog aka readers’. Regular readers of CookingJingalala must have seen this cutie in my Khoya post. This measuring scale weighs perfectly and has all scales; Oz, Lb., liter., Kg, gm. etc. You would love to purchase this food scale if you are a food blogger.

 

 

My next target from Amazon is this Yellow Lemon Squeezer thing. I’m always fond of lemon squeezers, don’t know why. May be because it gives me a feeling of power over something when I squeeze the lime/lemon until its last drop Smile. Back home we had a very very simple aluminium lemon squeezer. You might think ‘why to buy a lemon squeezer for this rate?!’. Don’t ever spend your pennies if somebody offers it for $1. I’m a pot of experience when it comes to buying kitchen gadgets. I got a stove lighter and lemon squeezer from one such shops which offered it for a dollar. Both did not work at all. The lemon squeezer got broke when I used it for the first time Devil. The lemons and limes are so very big in the region where I live in the US. They are in the size of oranges. So I’ve planned to buy this lemon squeezer made of metal. You might ask ‘why not cut the lime/lemon into small pieces and squeeze them with hands?’ Fair enough. But I’ll give you a good reason why to buy this lemon squeezer later in this page. Read on…

When you’re new to your office here, your peers will advice you to get a Pyrex glass lunch box set. We’ve been using the set since a year and it’s still in great shape. When we bought they gave us a free lunch bag too Hot smile. I also use this for storing my leftovers in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

When you have early morning meetings, wrapping up a fresh sandwich will be perfect for breakfast. That’s why it’s always nice to have a sandwich maker in your kitchen. When I was in Chennai I had a sandwich maker that had a division kinda thing which I always disliked. So I’m having thoughts to buy this sandwich maker since the plates are plain.

The most important thing you would need along with the other kitchen items is a kitchen glove, especially if you have a sensitive skin. I’ve been washing vessels right from my childhood days. I never had any problems like cracks forming in fingers or my palms becoming rough. It all happened after I came to the US. All the sink taps here supply both hot and cold water. You have to set both the taps to the right temperature such that warm water comes out. But normally due to the rush in the mornings we wont be waiting until the tap pours warm water. The cold or hot water temperature will damage your soft and smooth palm skin. Sometimes the hot water even burns the skin if you’re careless. Cold water stings the skin membrane. So I suffered from cracked fingers and my soft hands became very rough. These cracks did not allow me to cook anything properly. My palm gave a burning sensation even if I ladled a steaming pot of gravy or rice. If I squeeze lemons with hands, gone. The acid in the lemon made the cracks worse and gave a terrible burning sensation. I was not able to handle spicy masala to apply them in arbi roast or banana curry or fish curry. Then I searched for a good kitchen glove and bought this in Amazon.

 

Of course you can get gloves for few cents in departmental stores, but I tell you, they sure won’t work. I know because I’ve got one such pair and I do not know where they are now. But This gloves works best for me. I use this glove for all the cleaning works I have in the kitchen – Washing dishes, cleaning sinks, cleaning the stove, cleaning the counter and the like. This gloves comes in many sizes. I have very small hands (yeah, like fairy tale angel hands :P), so size ‘small’ fitted well. The gloves gave some kinda smell when it was new. However the smell vanished once I started to use it regularly. The gloves has embossed markings in order to grip slippery things like glasses while washing. It has many such good things to list. Just use this kitchen gloves whenever you need to work with waters in the kitchen. Your fingers, palms and hands will be taken care.

 

Coming Up Next; Are you a newbie to Indian cooking? Wanted to know which is the best masala or curry powder to use in Indian cooking? Want to know which rice suits best for Biryani? Answering all your trivial questions on Indian Cooking. Please wait for the post.

 

You may also like to read my new post on Gorgeous Kitchen Storage Containers to beautify your counter-tops

 

Mangala from Cooking.Jingalala.Org
Eat Well !

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Dear Readers,
Sure the recipe tastes far great than the pictures shown. To show you the process in making the recipe with step-by-step pictures and to show you the outcome of the recipes with some cool photographs, I spend quite a lot of time in photographing it without minding the food getting dry or limp or not-so-hot-enough for us to eat (or sometimes without minding that we are hungry :)

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  • Mahi

    Varen, varen..vanthukitte irukken! I think typing in Tamil will help me express(!) my feelings… Lol!! :)

  • Mahi

    ஒரே ஒரு 5 லிட்டர் குக்கர், ஒரு தோசைக்கல், ஒரு கரண்டி, ஒரு தோசை திருப்பி ஆகிய உபகரணங்களுடன்:) நான் பாஸ்டன்ல வந்து இறங்கின டைம்ல இப்படி ஒரு போஸ்ட் போட்டிருக்கலாமில்ல மீனாக்ஷி?! :)

    ஹூம்..அதுவும் சிலபல வருஷங்கள் ஆகிப்போச்! 2 மாசம் ஒரே ஒரு பாத்திர செட்-உடன் ஓட்டி, பிறகு 4 மாசம் எக்ஸ்டென்டட் ஸ்டே-ல, ரவா தோச சுட்டு, லைஃபை எக்ஸ்டென்ட் பண்ணி, மறுபடி 7 மாசம் அமெரிக்கன் ப்ளெண்டர்- இன்டியன் ஸ்டோர் இட்லி தட்டு என்று ஓட்டி..2 வருஷத்தை ஒப்பேத்தினேன். ஊருக்குப் போனதும் மொத ஷாப்பிங் “க்ரைன்டர் & மிக்ஸி”! :)

    Enjoyed the first few paragraphs! How come your groom didn’t give any advice regarding the packing and things available here in US..etc.? ;)

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      Lol lol… மஹி, உங்களுக்கு பொறுமை ரொம்ப ஜாஸ்தி. 2 years with this mini set of items?!!!! I should give a tight handshake for you really. Good.

      Advice-a? நீங்க வேற. அவரும் நான் வரதுக்கு ஒரு மாசம் முன்னதான் வந்தார். அதுவும் ஹோட்டல் ஸ்டே. But he insisted me to get Mixie. Since my luggage was full already, I dropped the idea :(

  • Mahi

    I got my Pyrex set in a thanks giving day sale..it was very cheap then! :) And regarding the kitchen glove, I would suggest, buy use and throw one’s, which makes life easier! :)

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      Correct. My neighbor friend told me about Thanks Giving day sales. Use and throw gloves was not comfortable for me. So using this. Actually, this gloves has become a part and parcel of my kitchen cleaning works :D

    • YouSaidWhat

      The use-and-throw gloves might make *your* life easier but not for future generations, even your own. And do you know how many fish and other animals die because of our excessive plastic and latex usage? Google it. Mangala has reviewed a pair of gloves that is reusable, seems to stop water from dripping upto the arms, reduces our carbon footprint but you want to suggest an alternative that does so much more harm to environment?? I don’t believe this :( We humans are indeed selfish and narcissistic!

  • Mahi

    Ufff….I didn’t notice this! //Of course you can get gloves for few cents in departmental stores, but I
    tell you, they sure won’t work. I know because I’ve got one such pair
    and I do not know where they are now// :))) I got a pack of “use n throw gloves” long back and still have some pair left! hahaha!

  • Vini

    one very essential vessel I missed to bring was a Kadai (for deep frying). One can find all kinds of vessels in the US except this curved pan. I saw my local indian grocery selling them but, they were too flimsy and do not suit most of the electric stove tops here. So, a good strong Kadai is a must bring from India.

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      Very true… very true Vini. I bought one from India (yeah the old guy you see in all gravy psot, biriyani post and many other post :D ). However, I was not able to manage with just one kadai. So last month i purchased a 10 piece set from Mainstays. It’s doing a real good job in my kitchen. More about it in an exclusive post very soon. :)

      • Mahi

        Actually ladies, I differ from you here as well! ;) :) I neither brought, nor bought any kadai! For me, the small pan with a handle is more convenient than our regular kadai! :)

        • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

          Mahi, sorry, I do not find time to approve the messages. Hae, truly your husband should be a lucky guy. Now, tell me how can I delete your comment? If my husband looks this he’ll start to advice. :D

          • Mahi

            மீனாக்ஷி, யு.எஸ். வந்து ஒரு வருஷத்தில என்னைய இப்படி ஒரு போஸ்ட் போடச் சொல்லியிருந்தா இன்னும் நாலு பக்கம் எழுதியிருப்பேன். ;):)

            But, am not a newbie to US any more! Being a few years in here, and after 2-3 trips to India, (fortunately) am content now. You continue…!! ;)

            இனிமேட்டு எக்குத்தப்பா (சிக்கன)கமென்ட் போட்டு உங்க BP-ய ஏத்த மாட்டேன், ஸீ யா இன் யுவர் நெக்ஸ்ட் போஸ்ட்! :))))

          • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

            :D :D {சிக்கன கமெண்ட் என் கண்ணுல மட்டும் படுற மாதிரி போடுங்க.} Planning to start new post tomorrow Mahi. I too will see you tomorrow in your place.

        • Vini

          Mahi, even I was using a small pan with handle for frying as a makeshift arrangement before I got my kadai from India :) It was good too but the downside was excess wastage of oil. I do not reuse the oil used for deep frying so I definitely needed a kadai :)

          • Mahi

            Vini, I also use minimum quantity of oil to deep fry and my small pan with a handle is perfect (till date, touch wood! ;) ) to me! Any-ways, I didn’t get a chance to use gas stove in US at all. So far, my stoves were Electric coil and ceramic cook top, that’s why I prefer flat bottom pans with handles. :)

            அதுவும் இல்லாம, டீப் ஃப்ரை பண்ணின ஆயில் கொஞ்சநஞ்சம் மீதியானா இட்லிபொடிக்கு தொட்டுக்க யூஸ் பண்ணுவேன், என்கிட்ட இருக்கிற pan-ல விளிம்பு இருக்கும், ஈஸியா எண்ணெய கிண்ணத்தில ஊத்திக்கலாம். ஆனா இதுவரை நான் பார்த்த கடாய்ல flat bottom-ம் இல்ல, விளிம்பும் இருந்ததில்ல. ஹிஹிஹி! :)) ஊர்ல இருந்து இன்டக்ஷன் ஸ்டவ்ல வைக்கிற இட்லிப் பாத்திரம்னு சொல்லி வாங்கிவந்தும் என்னோட ஸ்டவ்ல அது டான்ஸ்தான் ஆடுது, என்னத்தச் சொல்ல? ;) :))

            பேசவிட்டா நான் இன்னும் பேசிகிட்டே இருப்பேன், மீனாக்ஷிக்குதான் பாவம், என் கமென்ட்டப் பார்த்து ஹார்ட் அட்டாக் வந்துரும்! ஹஹஹா..am I right Meenakshi? ;)

          • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

            he he he… romba sari Mahee.

  • Vishnupriya

    Meena,
    can you suggest something to knead atta for chappathi?

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      Vishnu,
      Honestly, I’ve not used anything to knead atta for chapathi. But a kneading thing comes along with few models of Ultra table top wet grinder. I will read few reviews for you and if it seems okay, I will write here :)

  • kal rvj

    nalla writeup.. he he i had tat situation too. :) :) Even this time i had to rearaange at home 5 times to get luggage at 23 kg !! I sent the toor dal urad dal, spices and vessels in my hubby luggage and I carried idiyappam flour, kulambu podi, murukku maavu, kali maavu etc with me. :) forgot the kalpaasi! :|

    Just read ur writeup on chicken keema recipe.. think I shud also follow the wise owl’s way :) nice recipes.. will try and mail feedback. I was thinking.., can u add up a section for toddler food..its kindof craze rite now.. U mite be knowing a lot of home recipes for kids..and I can send them as well..let me know! :)

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      :D :D :D I appreciate your list Kalpna. Kalpasi is available in Indian stores here in the US too. They’re sold in the name ‘Dagad Phool’, but yeah they’re costly :)

      You always leave me with some ideas with your comments Kalpna. Sure will add a section for Toddler recipes.

  • Divya

    Hi I’m trying to buy a mixie. With my old Butterfly Emerald Value, I could fill the jar atleast 3/4th if not till the top and grind with ease. I never had problems with motor switching off/turning off. I read reviews for Eco Plus on Amazon and there were a few that said you can only load 1/4th of the jar. Could you tell me how it works?

  • kavita

    Wonderful post
    Gud work.

    • http://cooking.jingalala.org/ Mangala Meenakshi

      Thanks Kavi :)

  • Mathew Kurian

    It’s very useful post. thank u so much.
    Meanwhile i would like to share my experience with a Butterfly emerald 2 jar mixer.compared to price (including shipping it was around $80) it was really worthy. i bought it 8 months before and it was working very good. but now the big jar started leaking …. another drawback i have found is the round shape switch is sometimes not easy to operate/turn….probably it is an isolated problem…but still i am disappointed..

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