What are traditional indoor cooking stoves in India?Chulha is the primary traditional cooking stove used for indoor cooking. Angithi is a secondary cooking stove. Chulha may be spelled as Chula, Choolah, Chullla, or Chullah. Angithi may be spelled as Angeethi. The cooking stoves have evolved with available fuels.
Indian kitchen is a very special area with its own code of conduct. One must remove shoes before entering kitchen. To cook on traditional stoves, one must squat on one's haunches or sit on the floor. Burning of cow dung is supposed to purify the the stove. A mixture of clay and cow dung is routinely prepared to coat the cooking surface of the stoves.
Tandoor and Bhatti are not used for indoor cooking at homes. Tandoor is a community clay oven used for fee in the neighborhoods. Bhatti is a large stove made with bricks and clay to cook foods in bulk. Bhatti is used by professional cook (Halwai) for large gatherings such as wedding. Most of the cooking over Bhatti is done in very large Karahi. Wood, Upla. and Charcoal are used for fuel. Most of the restaurants use a combination of Tandoor and Bhatti.
ChulhaChulha was developed eons ago somewhere along when population started to live indoors. Chulha is a U-shaped mud stove made from local clay. After the clay formation is complete, it is finished by a coat of clay and cow dung mixture. The thickness of the walls is not important, but the dimensions of the fire-side are very important. There are no standard measurements. Over centuries, they have been optimized by word of mouth. A typical fireside cavity winds up with following dimensions
Width of the fire-side cavity = 7.5". This prevents cookware larger than 7.5" diameter from dropping in to the fire-side.
Height from the floor of the fire-side to the bottom of the cookware = 7" approximately. The depth is approximately 11". The depth gives enough room for ventilation.
In the front there is an apron about one inch high and 5" deep. This apron helps hold the wood and later remove the ashes. The top of the apron is flush with the bottom of the fireside cavity. As a matter of fact, the Chulha is constructed on a platform. A 3" wall Chulha will require a platform of 1" high, 14" wide, and 19" deep
Fuel for ChulhaWood and animal dung patties are used for fuel. Animal dung patties are called 'Upla'. The kerosene or Ghee may be used as accelerator on wood or dung patties to start fire.
What is Upla?The animal dung (cows, buffalo, goat, sheep, camel, etcetera) is mixed with finely chopped plant materials (Stalks called Sarkanda, Straw called Tuhari). The mixture is formed into patties (About 6" diameter and 1" thick) and dried in hot sun. The plant materials depends on the region and the crop being harvested. In North India, mustard stalks, legumes stalks, wheat straw are commonly used. The plant materials add to the density of Upla and makes the fire last longer like charcoal.
What are common woods?Keekar (Acacia) trees naturally grow all over India. This is the most common wood used for fuel. It is a small tree. The Keekar burns similar to 'wild cherry wood' in United States.
Safeda (Eucalyptus) trees are planted along the roadways and railroad lines. Safeda is also grown on the plantations themselves. Safeda burns similar to Ash-wood in United States.
Phog (Calligonum Polygnoides) is a shrub that grows in Rajasthan. This shrub is about 4 to to 6 feet tall. Phogalo is the flower and used as a vegetable. The brush is chopped up like straw and mixed with either cattle feed or animal dung to make Upla. The roots of Phog are dug up and used as wood for cooking.
The Roti (flat Indian bread) puffed in the fireside cavity, or the Papad roasted in the fireside cavity have very distinct flavors. Its basically from Upla and the wood being burnt.
The heat produced in Chulha is cooler than Gas or Electric stoves in USA.
SmokeThe major problem with Chulha is smoke inside the house created by burning wood, dung, and crop waste. It may cause acute respiratory, ear, and eye infections. Smoke can cause breathlessness, chest discomfort, and headaches. It can be fatal for children. In urban India, many Chulha are built under a chimney to take the smoke out of the kitchen to the roof. These chimneys do not have an exhaust fan. The smoke rises naturally and escapes from the Chimney. Newer designs incorporate a filter to trap toxic particle vent pipe with filters made of slotted clay to trap toxic particles. These filters are located near the Chulha and can be easily accessed for cleaning.
AngithiAngithi was a primary stove, or a secondary stove to Chulha. The exterior of Angithi looks like a pale to fetch water, because Angithi is made from a pale or bucket. In Hindi bucket is called Balti. A galvanized steel (to minimize rust) Balti is converted to an Angithi. A small access opening is cut near the bottom of the Balti. The inside of the Balti is coated with a mixture of concrete and clay to form a uniform cylinder in the center of the bucket. The inside diameter of the cylinder is kept between 7 to 7.5". Halfway through the length of the cylinder, an iron grate is installed. The charcoal is added from the top and supported by the grate on the top half of the cylinder. Paper, dried twigs are fed through the opening on the bottom to start fire and light the charcoal and Upla At the top surface three stops (about1" high) are formed at 120 degrees. The cookware rests on these stops. All the exposed surface of the concrete/clay structure is routinely coated with a mixture of clay and cow dung.
Angithi is also used as a space heater to keep the sleeping room warm during winter nights.
Fuel for the AngithiInitially, the Angithi is fired up with a small amount of Charcoal (Lakdi Koyla) and pieces of Upla. Once charcoal starts to light, mined coal (Pathar Koyla) is added. After loading coal, the Angithi is put outside to prevent hazardous fumes from spreading inside the house. After the fumes have ceased, the Angithi is brought back inside for cooking
Kerosene StovesIn Hindi, Kerosene is called 'Mitti ka tel', meaning oil (out) of the earth. Initially, Kerosene was used in the lanterns for light. In 1892, Frans Wilhem Lindqvist developed the first commercially manufactured portable indoor cooking stove called 'Primus'. The Primus employs a special burner where a tube is heated by lighting alcohol spirit. The Kerosene is manually pumped into heated tube, where it sprays out of a nipple mixing with air and producing blue hot flame. Primus provided convenience and became popular among low middle class in the urban areas.
During late 1970s, Kerosene wick stove was introduced. In principle, it is similar to the Kerosene space heaters used in United States.
Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) StovesIn 1970s, large oil corporations started to produce LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) in cylinders. Conceptually, this is similar to propane gas cylinders in United States. LPG consists of about 80% butane and 20% propane. In 1978, standards were developed for LPG stoves. These have become the most popular stoves in urban India.
LPG stoves are the future of India, urban today and rural tomorrow. The flavor induced by burning wood and Upla will be gone for ever. LPG stoves to provide a real opportunity for cooking while standing up. No more squatting or sitting on the floor to cook meals. Tomorrow's Indian kitchen may start to look like today's American kitchen
Outlook- Chulha remains the most popular stove in India, it will remain so for a few more decades in rural India. There is a concerted effort to develop a more fuel efficient Chulha with minimum indoor pollution. The fuel used remains wood and Upla.
- Angithi is going through a face uplift. It is designed to use metal cylinder. It uses charcoal and coal-briquettes. Use of Upla and mined coal are almost gone. The design is more fuel efficient. It has a smaller profile than traditional Angithi made of Balti. It is becoming fashionable to finish and serve hot Karahi foods on an Angithi for the well to do families.
- The Kerosene stoves are used by shrinking percentage of households. The users who do not need the portability are moving towards LPG stoves.
- The LPG stoves are the future of urban India.
- 1991 National census shows the following distribution of fuel used in Indian household for cooking.
Wood and crop waste: 62%, Animal Dung: 15%, LPG: 7.9%, Kerosene: 7.2%, Coal 3.5%, Charcoal: 0.8%, Miscellaneous: 3.7%
Miscellaneous includes Electric stoves (hot plates), Bio-gas stoves (Gas produced from animal dung)
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