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Earthen pots, ‘handis’, ‘urlis’: Traditional cooking equipment is making Bengaluru eateries smart

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BENGALURU: Heritage is the piping hot trend in the F&B industry of the IT city. After excavating lost cuisines, top commercial kitchens are time-travelling now.

Guacamole is pounded live in a traditional molcajete made with lava stone from Mexico. Dalmakhani is cooked overnight in a brass
handi atop a clay
tandoor or som-tam salad is hand-pounded in a wooden wok from Thailand. Traditional cooking equipment is suddenly making smart kitchens with blenders and grills look a tad bit synthetic.

Flavours have to be fresh and trapped, say restaurateurs who are happy to hunt, source and in-Chef Vikas Seth of Sanchez & Sriracha, says, “Local kitchen tools can never match up the original flavour profile. I buy them during travel.”

Besides, the molcajete or guacamole-maker from Mexico, Seth has bought rustic cast-iron press to make tacos, a special apparatus from Bangkok to make som-tam or raw papaya salad. Two vintage Cambodia grill-tables will be installed for live cooking at his Indiranagar chapter soon.

Championing the cause of making everything in-house, multi-cuisine eatery The Yellow Submarine makes the Thai green curry and hummus the good old way in a Thai mortar-and-pestle in place of a blender.

Consultant chef Adithya Kidambi, “Most restaurants in Bengaluru have gone commercial and buy readily available pastes, spices and sauces for ease of business. These vintage tools are time-consuming but worth the effort.”

Indian restaurants are finding their ways into the lanes of Coimbatore, Salem and Kerala to source traditional kitchen gadgets. Manu Nair of South Indies, Bonsouth and Upsouth chain uses stone mortar-and-pestle from Coimbatore.

A white stone vessel from Kerala is used for making fish curry. Chettinad food is made in earthen pots from Kerala.

“These are dying small-scale industries. It is the duty of the thriving F&B industry to support and promote eco-friendly kitchen tools,” says Nair.

Five-star hotels are indulging in culinary history too. A hamam dasta (mortar-pestle) for grinding dry spices and a sil-batta (grinding stone) for mincing meat have found space in the kitchen of The Oberoi Bengaluru.

JW Marriott has invested in custom-made 35-kg heavy lagan or brass handis for cooking gravies, urlis from Coimbatore and Salem, cast iron pans for appams and traditional woks for som tam salad.

“Love is not enough to make good food. It is made with the balance between the essential ingredients, chef ’s expertise and the right equipment,” says executive chef Daniel Koshy.

Food writer Priya Bala observes that the trend is making a comeback with people taking interest in slow cooking and lost cuisines. “Going back to traditional kitchen tools is commercially challenging. It must take a lot of passion to give up shortcuts,” says Bala, who too wove in cast iron pans for making appams at her Sri Lankan food festival recently.

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