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Seven Traditional Cooking Tools of Punjab

I live in India, and I speak Hindi, Punjabi and English. I enjoy writing about my native Indian culture.

This article will summarize the traditional cooking utensils of the Punjab region.

This article will summarize the traditional cooking utensils of the Punjab region.

Rich Culinary Traditions

Located in the northwest corner of India, Punjab is a region with a wonderfully rich culture and an ancient history. Its history can be traced all the way back to the Bronze Age, to a people known as the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harrapan Civilization.

Food and cooking are an integral part of any culture, and Punjab is no exception. Not only does it boast a unique and delicious cuisine, it also has a number of distinctive cooking tools and utensils that may be unfamiliar to other parts of the world. In this article, I'm going to discuss some of these traditional Punjabi utensils so that Western readers may have a glimpse into this rich culinary heritage.

7 Punjabi Cooking Utensils

  1. Madhaani
  2. Kujja
  3. Baltohi
  4. Danda and kunda
  5. Shaabree
  6. Dolu
  7. Chulha


1. Madhaani

The madhaani is a churning utensil that has long been used by Punjabis to make butter. Made from wood, this device serves to separate the whey as well as butter from the curds. It has a star-shaped head attached to a relatively long wooden stick.

How to Use a Madhaani

The madhaani is held in two hands and swiveled along an axis perpendicular to the star-shaped head. The head is placed in a container (typically a pot) full of curds and whey. Rotation occurs in one direction (say in a clockwise direction) when one hand moves forward and is reciprocated when the hand movement is reversed with the change in the cycle.

This causes a churning process in the yogurt that is in the container. As a result, butter is produced and the whey is separated.

Idiom About the Madhaani

There is an interesting Punjabi idiom about the madhaani, "pani ch madhaani ferna". This literally translates to "churning of water with madhaani". This phrase is used to describe an activity that has no benefit at all, so the real meaning of the idiom is "to do something in vain".

Churning Curd With a Madhaani

Kujja and Matka Ice Cream

2. Kujja

The kujja is a small earthen pot that is roughly as tall as a pitcher and as wide as a large bowl. Traditionally, it was used to store beverages for a short duration of time. Today, this traditional utensil is about to disappear from Punjabi culture.

The kujja is also utilized as a mould to make a particular type of Indian ice cream called kujja kulfi.

Preparing a Regional Dish in a Baltohi

3. Baltohi

The baltohi is essentially a large cauldron made of brass. It resembles a large cauldron in shape and size, but it doesn't have a handle to hold it. It is still used today to bake food for large gatherings like weddings and religious festivals.

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Danda and kunda

Danda and kunda

4. Danda and Kunda

The danda and kunda is very much like a mortar and pestle. It is used to prepare the all-important spice mixtures (such as dry cardamom, garlic, onion, and ginger) that add flavour to any vegetable or meat dish.

The kunda (mortar) is made by carving a hollow in a stone, and it functions as a container for the blend of spices that needs to be converted into a paste. The wooden danda (pestle) is then repeatedly pounded into the spices to make a fine paste.

Using a Danda and Kunda to Make Chatni

Basket shop

Basket shop

5. Shaabree

A shaabree is a small basket made of bamboo strips that was traditionally used to store chapati (unleavened flatbread made of flour and water). The chapati were typically packed in a small piece of fabric called a pauna. Today, the shaabree is used less and less; it has been replaced by steel boxes.

6. Dolu

The dolu is a cylindrical steel utensil used to carry liquids like milk, whey or sometimes water over long distances. It has a bow-like handle on top that is bound to the opening of the container on two sides. There is also a metallic lid to cover the mouth and prevent spills. The dolu is still used in Punjab to carry milk, whey and other kinds of beverages.

Punjabi Song Featuring a Dolu

Chulha with sticks inserted in it

Chulha with sticks inserted in it

7. Chulha

In the old days, the chulha was an essential feature of Punjabi households. This was the stove that was used to cook all food (e.g., chapati, vegetable dishes, etc). The chulha was traditionally prepared by the women, who would anoint a mixture of cow dung and thresh on a soil-mould. Wooden sticks were used for fuel.

I still have a chulha at home and we use it every now and then. In my opinion, chapatis that are made in a chulha taste more authentic than those that are made on the gas stove.

For basic cooking, however, we have a gas stove. People today tend to avoid using the chulha in part because it contributes to air pollution.


Quiz time! How well do you know your Punjabi cooking tools?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What does a kujja resemble?
    • Water pot
    • Wok
    • Shallow bowl
  2. What shape does a dolu have?
    • Spherical
    • Cylindrical
    • Cubical
  3. What is the madhaani used for?
    • To make butter and whey.
    • To boil milk.
    • To make cheese.
  4. What is the purpose of a chulha?
    • To chill food.
    • To store food.
    • To cook food.
  5. Traditionally, what was the shaabree used to hold?
    • Bread
    • Naan
    • Chapati
  6. What is the danda (pestle) and kunda (mortar) made of?
    • The kunda is made of stone and the danda is made of wood.
    • The kunda is made of plastic and the danda is made of steel.
    • The kunda is made of copper and the danda is made of stone.
  7. The baltohi is used for what kind of cooking?
    • Frying
    • Steaming
    • Baking

Answer Key

  1. Water pot
  2. Cylindrical
  3. To make butter and whey.
  4. To cook food.
  5. Chapati
  6. The kunda is made of stone and the danda is made of wood.
  7. Baking

© 2021 Sourav Rana

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