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What is Dum Cooking (Dumpukht)? Handi

This is a slow-cooking method dating back to early sixteenth century Dum cooking was introduced to India by Mughal. Handi is the cookware used for Dum cooking. Dumpukht is derived from Persian meaning 'air-cooked' or 'baked'. The earliest documented recipe can be found in Ain-I-Akbar Dampukht Recipe (Ain-I-Akbar).

What is Handi ?

Handi is a round spherical shaped clay pot. The bottom is thick. The top has a wide-mouth opening about 85% of the middle of the pot. The opening is supported by a very narrow neck that flares out to form broad rim. There is no handle so the pot is lifted by grabbing the rim. A clay saucer is used as a lid and placed on the top. The lid is sealed with hard paste made of flour and water. The Handi is left on the charcoal for several hours, till the food is to be served. The heat creates the steam, it condenses and rolls down the curved walls. 'Dum' means warm breath signifying the steam. The 'Pukht' means choking. 'Dum Pukht' means choking the steam and prevent it from escaping. .
Handiya is a smaller version of Handi

How is Handi Used?

There are basically three phases:


Handi is placed on open wood fire to cook food. The spices may be sautéed, raw foods added. The food is half-cooked.

Dum cooking

Par-cooked food is kept in Handi with minimal amount of water. The lid is placed and sealed with a paste of flour and water. The flames are put out, leaving a bed of hot coals. The heat creates the steam, the steam condenses and rolls down the curved walls. In other words, the steam is choked before it can escape, leading to the term 'Dum Pukht'.
For some of the dishes, the coals may also be placed on the lid to distribute heat evenly.

Food Service

Eventually, the seal is removed with the knife. Your nostrils will be filled with the natural aroma of all the spices and tender food.

Historical Note

In 1783, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah re-introduced Dum cooking during the construction of Bara Imam Bara Mosque. For construction workers, food was par-cooked in large clay Handis. The mouth of the Handi was covered with clay saucer and sealed with a paste of flour to prevent the steam from escaping.

At present, Dum cooking is in vogue. High priced restaurants offer Dum cooked food in Handi for parties. Large manufacturers in India are introducing Handi style cookware and food service ware.

How can I emulate Dum Cooking in United States?

You have two options: Bean pots, and Crock pots.

Bean Pots

Bean pots are available at most of the stores in United States. Bean pots have same characteristics as a Handi. You can seal the lid of bean pot with paste made of all purpose flour and water. Put the pot on the stove top at very low heat and let it cook for hours.

Crock pot

How to use Slow cookers for Indian Cuisine?
Put par-cooked food in crock pot. Seal the lid of crock pot with paste made of all purpose flour and water (¼ cup flour and 1½ Tablespoon of water). Cook on 'Low'.
Kashmir Dum Aloo Crockpot Recipe
Dum Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower) Crockpot Recipe


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