An Ode to Pitambari, the Secret Behind My Sparkling Cookware

For as long as I can remember, the cookware in my home has been given a day off every fortnight. A day for rest and pampering—a spa day, if you will. This is how it goes: Copper, steel, and bronze cookware and silverware are heaped on a kitchen counter…

For as long as I can remember, the cookware in my home has been given a day off every fortnight. A day for rest and pampering—a spa day, if you will. This is how it goes: Copper, steel, and bronze cookware and silverware are heaped on a kitchen counter. Then they’re placed, one by one, under a running tap and drenched in cold water. Coconut coir or a kitchen sponge is dipped in a salmon-pink powder that has been sprinkled over the counter and used to scrub each utensil vigorously. The vessels are allowed to rest under their powdery masks for a few minutes, and once washed and dried, their glossiest sheens are revealed.

That pink miracle-worker is called Pitambari, a deep cleanser-polisher that helps return metalware to their original shine. The word ‘pitambari’ is a combination of two Marathi words: ‘pit’ for brass, and ‘tamb’ for copper, but it can be used across a range of metals, including silver, stainless steel, aluminum and iron. For nearly four decades now, its tarnish-attacking properties has found it an abiding place in Indian households; in 2009, it found its way to the United States, making it available in major Indian grocery stores and online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.

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Lessons in Speed-Cleaning Your Kitchen, Learned From a Video Set

In 2020, I went from writing cookbooks and articles about food to also making cooking videos. Ever since, I have hosted four cooking shows, making everything from Punjabi chole to Raj kachoris, chaats in waffle cones, even a laborious nalli nihari—all …

In 2020, I went from writing cookbooks and articles about food to also making cooking videos. Ever since, I have hosted four cooking shows, making everything from Punjabi chole to Raj kachoris, chaats in waffle cones, even a laborious nalli nihari—all under the hawk eye of the camera.

Even as I was teaching viewers how to make these recipes, I was constantly picking up tips and tricks from the set. For instance, it blew me away to see food programmers use everything from glue in ice cream commercials to plastic ice cubes for chilled colas and motor oil on pancakes in place of real honey (oops—did I give it away?). But I also noted the little things that our kitchen stylists did to make the space look pretty between shots—giving the kitchen a facelift in a hurry, if you will. It continues to be endlessly fascinating to me to see a set kitchen go from looking like a hurricane had blown through one minute to being completely calm and clean the next.

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The Surprising History of Bhang, India’s Edible Cannabis Drink

During Holi, the annual Hindu festival of colors, a drink called thandai, which literally translates to “cooling off,” makes an appearance in India. Depending on where you go, the traditional milky concoction might be laced with hints of an edible Indi…

During Holi, the annual Hindu festival of colors, a drink called thandai, which literally translates to “cooling off,” makes an appearance in India. Depending on where you go, the traditional milky concoction might be laced with hints of an edible Indian cannabis called bhang.

What is bhang? An avocado-green paste made with the young leaves, flowers, and stems of the cannabis plant, which get soaked, ground, and then mixed with whole milk or yogurt to make a shake. The legal status of cannabis in India is fuzzy—in some states it's permissible, in others not—but go for a drive in many places and you’ll spot government-run stores beaming back at you with the words “Bhang Shop” in bright scarlet letters.

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12 Sweet, Savory & Delightful Diwali Dishes

Everyone loves a good Diwali meal. It’s a coming together of rich colors, textures, and flavors—a celebration of light. To help you plan for your own feast this season, we’ve put together this handy guide outlining some of our favorite refreshing salad…

Everyone loves a good Diwali meal. It’s a coming together of rich colors, textures, and flavors—a celebration of light. To help you plan for your own feast this season, we've put together this handy guide outlining some of our favorite refreshing salads, hearty mains, and clever sweets and drinks, all perfect for Diwali (or anytime!).


1. Lentil & Basmati Salad With Tamarind, Coconut & Cilantro

No Indian festival is complete without a rich, rice-based dish on the dining table. Biryani can sometimes be too labor-intensive to cook for a small crowd, and this rice salad offers a light yet festive alternative. With add-ons like unsweetened coconut, Le Puy lentils for protein, and a tangy tamarind dressing to toss everything in, this south Indian dish is a winner.

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The Star of My Kitchen? This Do-Anything Plant-Based Protein

Vegetarians spend a large part of the day trying to figure out ways to add more protein to their diet. Even for an Indian vegetarian, whose average meal is more or less balanced—carbohydrates from roti or rice, vitamins and minerals from sabzi, and pro…

Vegetarians spend a large part of the day trying to figure out ways to add more protein to their diet. Even for an Indian vegetarian, whose average meal is more or less balanced—carbohydrates from roti or rice, vitamins and minerals from sabzi, and protein from dal—it can be exciting to move beyond lentils and sprouts in search of more protein.

Beyond the everyday staples above, the most obvious vegetarian choice of protein across the country is paneer, followed by tofu and soy granules. I like to crumble ample amounts of tofu in my morning burji (a spiced scramble of sorts) and make keema out of soy granules, sometimes stuffing it into a samosa to make a quick snack. I turn chickpea mash into kebabs, saving paneer for rich vegetarian kormas and saags. But with so much noise around dairy (for reasons related to human health and animal welfare), the lack of availability of homemade tofu, and the fact that soy granules always come out of a cardboard box, meeting tempeh has changed the game for me.

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‘What Does Diwali Mean to Us This Year?’ We Asked 8 Food Pros.

Figuratively and literally the most lit festival that exists, the word derives from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” translating to “a row of lamps.” Mythology explains that it was first celebrated when after 14 years in exile, Lord Rama came home to Ayo…

Figuratively and literally the most lit festival that exists, the word derives from the Sanskrit word "deepavali," translating to "a row of lamps." Mythology explains that it was first celebrated when after 14 years in exile, Lord Rama came home to Ayodhya in northern India and the entire village was lit up in his honor. Even today, Indians all over the world celebrate the five days that fall in the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar.

In a year different than any other Diwali before it, I checked in with chefs and food professionals—both in India and part of the diaspora—about what Diwali means to them, both generally and in 2020. One thing shone brighter than the warq on my kaju katli: While we may all have our cultural take and sui generis rituals, what accompanies the covey of sweets is a nostalgia-filled culinary narrative that is common to every Indian no matter where they are.

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The Splendor of Raj Kachori, India’s Most Kingly Snack

Just like eating a salsa-dripping taco off a truck in L.A., eating a raj kachori should not be done with a white shirt on. The chaat wallas don’t hand out a bib like crab curry places, and eating it is a fairly messy affair. But several rehearsals late…

Just like eating a salsa-dripping taco off a truck in L.A., eating a raj kachori should not be done with a white shirt on. The chaat wallas don't hand out a bib like crab curry places, and eating it is a fairly messy affair. But several rehearsals later, you usually get deft at picking the right ratio of crunchy poori, sprouts, chutney, and garnish—all in the tiny bowl of your spoon. But still, please just keep those ivories away.

The concept of a poori—deep-fried flour-based bread—finds a mention in few of India’s oldest scriptures like Manasollasa and Mahabharata. But it wasn’t until the Mughal invasions in the 17th century that the concept of chaat is believed to have been introduced to the subcontinent. A relatively newer style of dish, chaat, which literally translates to “lick” in Hindi, suggesting that the category of dishes is so good, you’ll want to polish every one of them clean.

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Why Pasta Is an Essential Part of Indian Regional Cuisine

When I visited Leh, a dusty Himalayan town and the erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Ladakh, it was at the onset of winter. Tiny cafes serving Himalayan meals to weary trekkers had begun wrapping up for the season. On my last night after an arduous p…

When I visited Leh, a dusty Himalayan town and the erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Ladakh, it was at the onset of winter. Tiny cafes serving Himalayan meals to weary trekkers had begun wrapping up for the season. On my last night after an arduous pine forest walk, when I couldn’t be bothered about what to get for dinner (I just want something hot and spicy!, I thought to myself) I spotted a three-letter dish called kev.

Resembling strozzapreti, a Tuscan pasta variety that looks like chopped pieces of a thin rope, a bowl of kev is just that, except it’s made of whole wheat flour and tempered with a handful of Indian spices and mountain beans. And this is just one example of the range of Himalayan pastas that are common in this part of the country. Their skyu is an orecchiette look-alike; chutagi feels like a distant cousin of minestrone; and bhatsa marku, a Tibetan version of mac and cheese comes topped with dri (female yak) cheese.

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