Traditional Indian cooking techniques that you must know

by Sanjeev Kapoor

When someone says ‘Indian food,’ the first thing that comes to mind is either a sizzling hot tandoori, a nice kabab or an aromatic biryani. But these delicacies would be nothing if they hadn’t turned out as they did! Certain traditions of cooking or techniques, created and later upgraded by Indians are also some of the very savoured and legendary dishes of all time.  


Popular dishes of India have always carried a very authentic and traditional touch to them. May it be a typical Punjabi Tandoori, a Kashmiri Rogan Josh or a Hyderabadi Dum Biryani; it is the precision of the cooking process involved that’s the catch!

The genius techniques of preparing meals in different ways that make food even tastier is an ancient history buried in recipe books. The biggest foodies initially dated were the Mughals. They were the first ones to treat food as an art. They travelled with their chefs and these artists explored a diverse range of flavours and ingredients. Their tale began by experimenting with food, not for the sake of taste but simply because they were a master of their craft. Mughals were also the first ones to introduce the use of rose water for fragrance and lots of spices for strong flavours. . 


But in the later years, these concepts became broader and started to gain multiple perspectives. For instance, traditionally a tandoor was made with a clay pot set into the ground and fired by wood or charcoal that slowly burnt within the tandoor itself. But now, there are ovens and grilling stoves that are just as effective.


There are many such Indian cooking methods that resulted in epic dishes that are relished around the globe too! Here are some of them:  


Dum Pukht – A cooking technique from the Awadh region – a region with a rich culinary history. Cooking on a dum is basically letting the food cook in its own steam, without letting any of it escape. A thick strip of dough is used to seal the vessel, restricting the steam. This allows the flavours to blend in well and the dish ends up very aromatic. In India, many dishes, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, are cooked this way.  


Tandoori – A technique woven deep into the roots of Indian cooking. The interesting part about this is that before beginning the process of cooking, a traditional tandoor is first seasoned with multiple layers of mustard oil, spinach and sometimes salt; and is then ready to be heated. Many breads and dishes were designed especially for these clay pots.


Bhunao – ‘Bhunai’ literally translates to sautéing. Although, it is a combination of stir-fry, sauté and stewing. It involves managing the heat between medium to high, as per the recipe demands. The process of continuously stirring is known as ‘bhunai,’ to avoid the ingredients from sticking to the vessel. The dishes involving only this form of cooking process are known by the process – for example, ‘Bhuna Gosht.’

Handi – This type of cooking is more of the cooking vessel, than the technique itself and is a mix of bhunao and dum. A handi is a pot with a bottom that is like a wok and a narrow opening on the top. The bottom of the pan has to be thick so the food doesn’t stick and burn, the lid helps maintain the aroma and flavours.


Khurchan – The word ‘khurchan’ in general means ‘scraping.’ The term was coined after the act of boiling milk, reducing it and later scraping off the layer stuck on the sides of the utensil. In Awadhi cuisine, cooking on a flat pan (tawa) was known as khurchan.  

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.