Introducing the Typical Indian Kitchen

by Sharell शारेल on April 2, 2011

in Culture Shock in India, Daily Life in India

Post image for Introducing the Typical Indian Kitchen

Following on from my post about the typical Indian bathroom, a reader recently asked in the forum about what a typical Indian kitchen looks like. I thought it worthwhile to write a post on it, as the typical Indian kitchen has quite a few unwelcome surprises for the foreigner (more so than the bathroom)!

The first thing to note is that similar to bathrooms in India, western designs (meaning modular kitchens with built in cupboards and other facilities) are only just starting to grace Indian kitchens. And they’re commonly only a feature of high-end “luxury” properties. Most of the kitchens you’ll come across in India will look like the one in the above picture. They’re readily identified by:

  • A sea of silver — pots, pans, containers, cutlery, and crockery.
  • A portable cook top (which I refer to as a “camp stove”).
  • And the Pièce de Résistance, a gas bottle.

Gas bottle in my kitchen.

As can be seen from the photo, the gas bottle sits under the stove (very much like camping, na?). Newer residential developments, especially in Mumbai, do have gas pipelines (my previous apartment included). Yet, just as many Indians shun modern western appliances such as washing machines, they do the same in regards to reticulated gas. They fear that the pipe will leak and that there will be an explosion.

Now that we’ve taken a look what’s in an Indian kitchen, let’s see what you won’t find.

  • No hot water (Indian homes usually have small hot water heaters in the bathrooms only).
  • No plug for the kitchen sink (dishes are washed not in a sink full of soapy water, but rather under the running tap).
  • No rangehood/extractor fan, no dishwasher, and no oven (Indian cooking doesn’t involve baking).

I’ve adjusted well enough to all of the above (perhaps with the exception of not having a rangehood — Indian kitchens get VERY hot and smoky when cooking with oil at high temperatures).

Nevertheless, what remains a constant source of frustration is poor kitchen design, particularly lack of storage.   I’m fortunate that my kitchen has cupboards above and below the bench (although the ones below aren’t really usable as they constantly smell damp in the humidity). However, there’s no pantry and no cutlery draw. This leads to the reason why Indian kitchens are often a sea of silver: there is simply nowhere to store the items away (and what little cupboard space there is is taken up with food).

What’s more when buying a new apartment in India, it’s likely that there won’t even be any doors on the cupboard space below the bench. It’s just an open platform.

Now, you might be wondering, is there anything actually good about the typical Indian kitchen? I’m happy to say, yes, there is! Real granite benches. You’ll never come across an economical granite-look melamine kitchen bench in India. India has a huge granite and marble industry. And just like marble floors are standard, so too are granite benches.

Photo credit: user Stephanie Booth

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© Copyright 2011 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 108 comments… read them below or add one }

Girlfrombombay April 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Agree with almost everything you said, but I think most Indian kitchens do have extractor fans and definitely thy have moves/ microwave ovens. I learnt cooking in the USA, so I’m not comfortable in Indian kitchens.

But then again, I hardly cook in Mumbai. We have a gas cylinder (that’s the correct Indian English term ;-) ) in our kitchen as well, because my cook is uncomfortable with the idea of a pipeline. And we have a dishwasher, but the house help stay away from it. We do have cutlery draws and a pantry that are properly utilized though.

Can you customize your kitchen to offer better utility? Get a cabinet put in, change the design a bit, install an extractor fan? I don’t think that will be too difficult?

Some of the new high-end apartments in Bombay have fabulous kitchens though. My friend’s has a very Bond-esque gadget heavy kitchen. It’s designed by Porsche and they’ve tied up with certain Indian property developers, I think.


Sharell April 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Unfortunately, we’re only renting so don’t want to waste the money. The kitchen has a fan, but it’s over by the window…. no where near the cook top, so it’s useless at sucking the steam/oil etc up and away. It still spreads throughout the kitchen and settles on the overhead cupboards! Most homes do have microwave ovens but not the large convection ovens we have in the west (you know the ones I mean ;-) ). So it’s impossible to bake much. I have a small portable oven, but it can only fit one thing in at a time… can do a roast chicken but no veggies!

I have so much kitchen envy over the new designs. I’ve walked through them in home stores and drooled. :-(


Monishikha April 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hi Sharell,

Im a big fan of “firangi” redecorating shows like “Colin and Justin Home Heist”, “While You Were Out” etc. , so I can imagine the kitchen envy bit! However, there are some things you can do to make your life easier (even in a rented apartment), like
- Buy an “electric chimney” which is portable.
- Buy an “OTG a.k.a Oven Toaster Grill”, a large size one – doesn’t cost much and is portable. Ditto for a Microwave oven.
-Buy a “Four Burner Gas” -portable, occupies less space than the two burner ,costs a little more than a two burner.
-Increase your counter space with some dismantlable, built to order racks or shelves from a welding/carpentry shop.

And this is where I need to mention, we move every two years or so, and being an Army brat and an Air Force Officer’s wife, I’ve been seeing this kind of stuff work very well for both me and my mom, for everyday and party cooking , whether Indian or somewhat adapted “western” cooking .


Sharell April 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Oooh, a portable electric chimney…. this is something new I had no idea about!! 8) I’ll have to investigate. We’ve got a three burner cook top, so that’s not too bad.

I reckon they should do a similar show in India where they redecorate Indian kitchens. That would be very interesting! ;-)

Thanks for the tips!


Girlfrombombay April 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Sharell, a Desi kitchen makeover show is an excellent idea!
Every second Bollywood actor is married to an interior designer, so you can get one of them to be the show decorators (and that way their husbands will produce/ publicize it) and you can be the host.

You can even try and get the men in the houses you redecorate involved in the cooking while you’re at it ;-) AND it will be great publicity for your book :-D


Sharell April 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

It’s too exciting! :-D Does anyone have any TV contacts? How do we get the TV networks interested?! lol. (And my brother in law is an interior designer too… hence my in laws have a rather nice kitchen.)


priya April 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

Awww Sharell…you can always opt for an electric chimney which is becoming common these days. And I tell you, its worth the money. No more sweating in the hot days of summer. There is definitely lack of space in the Indian kitchen. Moreover builders have opted for vertical kitchens/ rectangle kitchens instead of the traditonal square spaces. That is, the kitchen tis getting smaller and smaller. And it doesnt help the fact that Indians usually have big vessels which eventually land up over the loft cause of space constraints!! Also, we would definitely love to see how Aussies cook! :)


manjeet singh November 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm

most Indian kitchens do have extractor fans….but not chimney style (but u can always fit them according to ur needs)


Sharell November 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Both my kitchens in Mumbai have had “extractor fans” — simple fans positioned near the windows. However, they’re quite useless because the kitchen bench and cook top is not near the window, and hence the fans have been too far to suck the residue (steam etc) away. Overhead extractor fans are a must to be effective.


ASG January 16, 2012 at 6:05 pm

You should use the electric chimney. Juch switch it on while cooking. It sucks up all the fumes and throws it out of the window via a shaft. It is expensive but it keeps the oil fumes from sticking to the walls and cupboards.


Sruthi April 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Some of your articles really make me feel like we’re still living in stone age :P


Haley April 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Yeah, we’ve got the gas bottle under the stove arrangement too. I’ve come to terms with the fact that only gas stoves are used in Italy, I even prefer them to electric now, but there’s no way I could live without my electric oven. What do you do you poor woman? Yes, Indian food is good, but giving up home baked chocolate chip cookies doesn’t sound like a fair sacrifice!


Sharell April 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I love gas stoves. My mum has an electric one and I really struggle to use it. I love instant heat. :-) As for baking, I have a small portable oven…. but chocolate chip cookies are still out of my league unless I want to spend $$$ on imported ingredients. Try finding chocolate chips for baking in India!! ;-)


luckyfatima April 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Is this really the “typical” Indian kitchen? Or the typical kitchen of middle to upper middle class Indian urbanites, especially apartment dwellers?

For me as a USian, a few things surprised me about middle class, urban Indian kitchens: the places I visited had doors on the kitchen. In the US, all of the kitchens I have seen are open. The door is great to keep fried onions smells and so on from wafting to the rest of the house. Since many of the places I visited (upper middle class) had A/C window units rather than central A/C, I was surprised to see that kitchens did not have A/C, so they were hot, especially when meals were being prepared. About the doors, if I ever get to be a millionaire and have my own American dream home designed and built, I will definitely put a door on the kitchen. What a practical idea!

I had the chance to visit some rural homes and saw village kitchens. I saw that people cooked outside. (statistically this type of kitchen may actually be more “typical”) I also visited a luxurious house in a village where the kitchen was built as a separate structure from the house and was partially open.

I was also fascinated by some of the kitchen utensils. Like the ‘pakkad’, those circle headed tong-ish grip thingies used for picking up handleless cooking vessels, the beautiful masala dani (I was like, me want one, too), and the ghotni to stick in dal to mash it up, kind of like a non-electric handheld blender. I just wanted all of them. They looked so cool. Oh, and every kitchen has a pressure cooker, while most US homes don’t have one.

Hahaha, if you have any of these in your kitchen, maybe you can make a post featuring the unique Indian kitchen utensils.


Ada April 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Looks almost exactly like a typical middle class urban kitchen in my country give or take some utensils…but like Luckyfatima said, the rural kitchen is very differnt. In my village we have a traditional kitchen dat’s outside the home complete with a pantry for food storage. The rural kitchen is open and also has a chimney so is rarely hot and it’s a hot spot for gossiping wiv other women in the compound or just sitting around the fire at night, roasting foods like corn, fish, pears etc. At home we have ur type of ‘camp gas’ and ‘gas bottle’ :-). Most ppl call them gas cylinders tho. But we do have a microwave oven which we use for grilling, heating up food or small scale baking. Built in cupboards are relatively rare but most homes have overhead counters, standard cupboards or just hooks on the wall to hang cooking utensils and a table or two for food stuffs and other utensils.


TAMASHA! April 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Hi Sharell-
I hear you about the granite and marble counter tops! I love to bake so I had a commercial range shipped here to Nepal from Italy. (4 gas burners, 2 electric hobs, and a full size electric oven) We actually have a solar hot water heater on the roof that provides hot water for the kitchen and both indoor bathrooms. I don’t really miss having a microwave or a lot of the other gadgetry I thought I needed in the US.
I have a dishwasher too……..her name is Joona!


Manny April 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Hi Tamasha,

What dishwasher do you have? Is it any good? Does it have its own water heating unit or do you have to plumb hot water hose to it?


TAMASHA! April 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Manny, “Joona” is my maid. All of our ‘residences’ are staffed by Nepali’s. I’m not familiar with Indian dishwashing machines, back in the US my KitchenAid dishwasher had its own ‘superheater sanitizer’ waterheater.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Oh Lord.. I totally missed that one. Doh! :)


Arti April 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm

A beautiful post… A typical Indian kitchen also contains a typical indian homemaker!!
My Yatra Diary…


JAYESH - G April 3, 2011 at 12:36 am

Hmmmm…. you use a Hindi/Marathi calender, Sharell? :-o

The utensils are really shining!
You must have really washed them for the pic! :-P

I am surprised you don’t have a microwave!

And you forgot, the more the number of utensils you have, the more amount of water we Indians (especially us Mumbaikars) can store drinking water during an unexpected water cut! ;-)

I am really happy to see the old table cleaning rag on the hook under the utensil rack (especially under the hanging tea-cups) though!
That’s the one constant trusty old place to always find it :-P


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 1:44 am

That’s actually not my kitchen!!! Only the picture with the gas bottle is. Photo credit for the other pic is at the bottom of the post. ;-) As for microwave oven… I don’t have one because I don’t think it’s very healthy to heat food at that temperature. It destroys the nutrients.


ASG January 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm

There was a time when people cooked food on a coal stove. Then came the the kerosene pump stove. It had small burner attached with a tank containing kerosene. U simply pump the stove with a pump attached to the tank. it pushed the kerosene in the burner. It was a dangerous implement through leading to accidents. Then came the gas or the gas stove that u call it. I wish u can do some article on Indian cooking implements like silbatta, chimta etc.

This is how things started making appearance in India. Thank your stars Sharell u did not land in India in the mid 70s or 80s. U would have found living very difficult. Back then there was only one TV in the entire neighborhood. People gathered in our house to watch TV. The living room resembled a mini theatre. Those who had refrigerators or two wheeler were considered wealthy. Life was simple though. There were very few desires. We learned to value money. If we tell this to today’s generation people won’t believe it. I wish u could do a post about it.


Sharell January 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Wow, it sounds like back in my grandparents’ day! :-)


priya April 4, 2011 at 6:56 am

Gosh Jayesh, you do have an eye for detail :) And were you away for a really long time?


JAYESH - G April 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Hi Priya!

Actually those were one of the few things that caught my eye first!
I was gone for two weeks for the trip.
Then, I had my friend’s weddings plus my cousin’s back at our native place, for which I was out of town for more than a week!

When I returned, my Internship had begun and my Surgery posting left me with little time, everyday 8:00 to 16:00 hrs, except for one (or sometimes a Sunday) where I have a 24 hr Emergency.

Even if I left early, I have to sit in the library to be at their beck and call! :-(

Plus, I had to start my studies for my post-graduate enterance exam.

Plus, I had to watch the World Cup. ;-)

Plus, we shifted to a new flat this Sunday and things are yet not arranged.

Even now, I am inside the O. T., sitting in the lounge, drinking tea! :-P

But I do come here….

Except, I don’t have much time to sit and comment. :-(

If I hide, loud shouts for, “Intern!” and missed calls begin and the shit really hits the fan if I am not in ‘coverage area….’ :-(

And all this for a monthly stipend of Rs. 2, 500 (in Maharashtra), while Interns in other states enjoy that of Rs. 12, 000 to Rs. 15, 000.

Besides all this, I am enjoying my actual Internship.


priya April 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

That’s sad!!! :(


M April 3, 2011 at 1:35 am

Ah but there are very good reasons NOT to have cutlery drawers – or indeed any closed cupboards…closed cupboards are, in general, just a red-carpet invite to roaches! Pest control is a newish thing. Plus, you remember, most Indian let their washed dishes air-dry – a drawer to hold them would mean additional work to dry them….am showing my personal biases :) I prefer the open system and find my American kitchen rather more work!

That said, I think kitchens in Bombay suffer from the usual lack of space there – most kitchens in S. India, while conforming to the same basic design, have plenty of storage – it tends to be open shelving, not closed cupboards (see roaches above) and a “store-room” (aka pantry) is very common.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 1:52 am

But open cupboards are unsightly, and everything gets dusty and dirty (in Mumbai). :-(


Megzy July 25, 2011 at 5:29 am

@ Sharell Use spring tension curtain rods on the open cupboards with bright fabric curtain doors for the open cupboards. They keep out the dust and dirt and allow enough light and air in to keep away the roaches, of course a bit of peppermint oil in the corners of the cupboards will also keep away the rats and roaches.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

Ah perfect timing for this article….Sharell.

During my recent trip to India. I bought an apartment in the South of Chennai (OMR Road) as my second home in India when I visit. It’s on the 12 floor and have a nice view of the Ocean and the backwaters and there are no spaces where another high rise can be built blocking my ocean view. Its quite close to the Hiranindani Apts. Hiranandani’s were too expensive for me as a second home.

Its almost finished and to be handed over soon. Except, In India they hardly have fixtures unlike Purchsing a new home here in the US.

The biggest problem I have is the kitchen. I told them not to put the standard granite slab so I can put a modular kitchen.

Its a 1500 hundred squarefeet 2 bedroom apartment and the kitchen is quite small. I can post a photo if anyone wants. I am trying to get this modular kitchen done. Anyone know of good modular kitchen people in Chennai who would do a good job (unsupervised? ..this is very important for me since I am not going to be there) and since this is not a very big apartment, I want to keep the budget reasonable as well. So I am looking for a functional yet quality kitchen cabinets. I don’t want any of those press boards…I want real wood cabinets.

What is a reasonable amount for this?

One of the things I absolutely want is a dishwasher. I learned to my happiness that Indian available dishwashers come with its own geasers

for hot water since India does not have central hot water like here in the US.

Any ideas? I have been to one called “Kitchen Concepts”. How good are they? I have their proposal and their pricing. So I have something to compare to. But I need more options.

Chennai residents, please respond.. I’d mucho appreciate it.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 1:42 am

BTW..Sharell..if you guys ever plan to relocate to Chennai. I know I know you don’t care for Chennai…but if you do.. Let me know.. I can rent you this Apt.



Sharell April 3, 2011 at 1:49 am

Ooooh, it sounds very tempting!! There are a lot of things I like about it from what you’ve mentioned (ocean views, dishwasher). And please do post a pic of the kitchen!!


Manny April 3, 2011 at 2:09 am

The Kitchen is really empty now since I have yet to do the modular kitchen. The good thing is, it has piped in gas connection. No more of those red cylinders.

It also has nice dry bathrooms..good bye wet bathroom… Ah ha!

LOL :)

Give me some time, I’ll have to do a panorama view (Stitching view photos using Photoshop) and then upload the photos and then post a link here.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 6:33 am
Manny April 3, 2011 at 4:31 am

Here is the view from my balcony. The aircrafts you see are from the Aeronautical tech school next door. Its not an airport.

Panaromaic view

The Apartment. Its all still being worked on… You can see some hard hates in my apt fixing stuff. Its in WIP

The Kitchen. Modular kitchen to be installed. The yellow thingi is the gas pipe connection.

1 of two bathrooms. They are still fixing it.. Its like any regular bathroom with bathtub. Totally dry..except for the addition of the water hose… :)

Some of the other rooms. Not shown are the two bedrooms. The master Bed room like the living room has its own balcony to the ocean side as well.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

Ah, it looks so peaceful…. so much space around. And it has a bath tub too!! Another “luxury”. 8) I love the workers in their hats too!!


Manny April 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm

All those lands and building are part of the tech school campus…including those tennis courts.

As apartment goes, there are much bigger and better Apartments around those parts that are not Niranandanis. I was actually not even sure if I need one. But I saw the view and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I thought if I don’t plan to live there, I can either rent it our or sell it later. So I just bought it.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 8:18 pm

What fun to be able to “just buy” a place like that! 8) Ya’ll must be prospering in Texas. But I agree, it’s a wise move. Especially the way real estate is booming. We bought a “shoe box” in Mumbai a year or so ago… a 1 bedroom in the ‘burbs. But it’s in an older building, so we’re renting it out and waiting for it to be redeveloped (if that happens we’ll get a bigger and new apartment. Hubby’s sister and her husband also have one in the same building that they rent out). I’m just happy we’re in the market. ;-) Prices are insane here!!


Amit Desai April 4, 2011 at 5:39 am

Haha Sharell, this is one problem if you are living in Mumbai as a middle-class person. If you live in other cities of India as a middle class person. You make most out of your money/status and can afford a decent size apartment (flat) with a bath tub in your master bedroom.


TAMASHA! April 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

Wow Manny!
Looks nice, very spacious. I’ve heard Chennai has some lovely beaches too. My husband and I are looking for a place near the ocean to spend winters.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Well.. Chennai has amazing beaches. After Miami beaches, Marina of Chennai is the second largest beach in the world. And they are very nice during hot afternoons but during evenings, people just crowd the place or hold political rallies.

IF you go further south those are nice beaches too..but poor people/slums defecate and not fit to walk about.

The ones that you can view from my apartment is even further south away from the city near the high tech park, its not that populated and there are some very expensive houses and resorts. VGP resort etc. It may not be clear from the photo I posted..but there is also a boat club near the north end of bridge where you can rent rowing boats etc and spend time in those back waters. The beach is about 1.5 KM from there.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Why not go to Kerala for winter? There are much nicer beaches there for short term winter vacations?

Although South Chennai near VG resorts/Mahapalipuram is not too bad… You may want to look for houses you can rent for short term closer to the shores that you can just walk to. From my apt, I think you still need a vehicle since you have to travel either south or north for about 3-5KM before going east towards the beach. As you can see, there are no roads that cuts across to the beach from my place.

Have you investigated Pondichery (if you speak French its all the more better) to spend your winter? that’s another option for you.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I’ve been to Mamallapuram/Mahabalipuram. I want to go back and buy a big rock sculpture! 8)


TAMASHA! April 3, 2011 at 10:05 pm

We stayed in Goa for a month this last winter, it was nice but serious $$$’s I think we’ll try Kerala this year.
For kitchen cabinetry/fittings have you tried Hafele? Our flat in Delhi has Hafele cabinetry & storage throughout. I really like it & wish we had it in Nepal. Everything’s stainless steel or melamine coated, it repels the damp, mold and insects. There’s a Hafele location in Chennai.


Manny April 3, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Do they sell stone sculptures there? I need one for my house here in Texas.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm

They sure do, it’s the home of rock sculpting in India. Plenty of artisans there, and they make sculptures in all sizes and designs (I bought a small Buddha head…but this was almost 10 yeas ago that I was there now. Time flies!!).


Manny April 3, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Yeah… saw this one

I wonder how much it would cost to get it shipped.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I LOVE!! I want them all!! Not sure about shipping costs. I guess they’d send it sea mail?


prashanth April 4, 2011 at 2:32 am


Is this piece of Chennai (that you bought), in a new locality, close to Tiruvanmayur Road, where many Tamil Film industry and other rich folks are buying? I’m not from Chennai, but I’m a bit familiar with it…and there are few good residential places, like Adayar, Indira Nagar, etc….and… are you planning to relocate to Chennai?


Manny April 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

Just put “Hindustan institute of technology and science, Padur, chennai, india” in the Google map and hit the search button. Thats to it is my place.

Chennai is so developed, and there is hardly any new area to build new things… its more expensive than Bangalore if not as expensive as Mumbai. South of Chennai is where there are farm lands that can be developed. The “Old Mahapalipuram road” you see in the google map is where all the BPO and IT firms are. Its the Chennai’s technology park.

Yes.. there are large Farm houses and farms on that side of Chennai owned by some very rich people of India

I am not planning to relocate to Chennai, its just that I end up spending at least 2 months every year there.. So I thought I’ll just get a place… just in case. :)


priya April 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

We have a house next to the film studios in Chennai where all these shootings take place. And its getting expensive in Chennai but obviously, not like in Mumbai. A good 1100 sq ft flat in central Mumbai (Mulund) costs more than 1 cr. It’s insane.


Sharell April 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

It’s totally insane. I think it’s almost impossible to get a decent two bedroom flat of that size for under 1 cr anywhere in Mumbai. I remember when I first came here, Thane (in greater Mumbai) was considered so far away (my sister in law comes from there) but now it’s become a hot area because people just can’t afford to buy in Mumbai anymore. :-( It would be great if we could move closer to my parents in law.. but they live in Prabhadevi… it’s become just too expensive, so we’re stuck in the burbs! ;-)


priya April 5, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Did you read that news about Deepika Padukone buying a 16cr flat in Prabhadevi? You in laws are living in a gold mine, in that case :)


Sharell April 6, 2011 at 6:37 am

Oh, no I didn’t, but I’d believe it. So many posh apartment towers are coming up in that area. The inlaws have been in the same 2 bedroom apartment (on that phul galli behind Siddhivinyak temple) for the last 35 years or so… I think they bought it when it was being built… and my father in law owns a shop in the area too. South Mumbai was affordable back then. ;-)

Deb April 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hi Manny, I don’t live in Chennai, we live in Chicago, but my husband’s family has a building of flats in Chennai and we’re working on finishing our flat right now. We still have to do the kitchen. We’re working with Vel’s Interiors in Chennai. We’re looking at solid wood cabinets too. We’re pretty “hands-on” with our ideas and a bit picky but the architect at Vel’s is used to working with us on the other side of the planet! You don’t have to be very involved though. They’ll do the kitchen from blueprints to finish and they’ll work with all contractors. You’re welcome to contact me via my blog if you want to find out any more.


Manny April 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Deb.

I posted in your Blog.



MinatheBrat April 3, 2011 at 9:47 am

Sharell! I love this post! Thank you so much! :) :)
No chocolate chips? I’d cry! Really.
It’s funny that you say people there are scared of the idea of piped-in gas and I was thinking how scary and explosive-looking the gas tank under the counter looked! lol
I love the stone countertops!! What a nice bonus!
I’ve had to make do without silverware drawers before and find a nice container on the table makes a pretty decent substitute. I’m sure you’ve got something similar going.
Do they sell the tankless hot water on-demand units in India? That would seem like a great solution to the no-hot water in the kitchen since they are small, efficient and would fit right under the counter.


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

Glad you like it! :-) I also think the gas bottle is rather scary looking.

Well, I just keep in mind that I’m so much healthier not eating fattening cookies!! ;-)

You can see my cutlery container in the gas bottle pic… it’s sitting just behind the water bottles (waiting to be refilled). Perhaps I should’ve also mentioned the water filter in many Indian kitchens!


priya April 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

We had a fire emergency in my residential complex and yes, the first thing that panicked everyone was the piped gas line. We had to switch off the meters and call the gas line guys to ensure that everything’s alright. It is definitely a bit risky but better than having a poor chap hauling the cylinder all the way upstairs!!


Sharell April 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I can just imagine!!


Ruby Tuesday April 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Here in Egypt we have to use the gas bottles also and they are always really ugly and battered looking. You get mains gas in parts of the major cities but I have heard so many stories of whole families dying because of a gas leak due to lack of safety checks. I can see why Indian would distrust mains gas!


Amit Khivesara April 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Hope we get to see bedroom next…he… he :-)


Sharell April 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm

We’ve already been there and done that. The fun is over! ;-) :-P


Abhishek April 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I recently saw a survey on standard of living in various countries.While India was at dismal 119th rank , Australia was at 2nd pos(even above US).Now I can really imagine how hard it must be for you!!!!!!!


prashanth April 4, 2011 at 2:55 am

These statistics generally show the infrastructure and safety concerns, not that they are great places to live, for everyone. It all depends from person to person. Actually, there are many people who are happy enough, living in not-so-happening or ugly places…and many miserable or depressed folks, living in rich, beautiful places…Go where you are happy and do what your heart says! :)


Amit Desai April 4, 2011 at 4:57 am

That’s a joke Abhishek. If standard of living were that high in Aussie, vast majority of Punjabis and Gujaratis would have been dying to go to Australia instead of U.S/Canada. Did you know that standard of living is quit high in Iceland according to statistics? Go there and see your self the difference between the ‘reality’ and ‘statistics’. :-P


Lisa April 4, 2011 at 2:56 am

Hi Sharell,

I just stumbled upon your blog today and i must say, you are doing a wonderful job.I have been to india twice in the past and it changed me completely. It changed the way I think and react to situations.India is best described by the following quote from the movie ‘Vanilla Sky’ – “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”.


Sharell April 4, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hi Lisa, welcome :-) And I love that quote. It’s so true!! There is just so much humanity and possibility in India. Thanks for sharing.


Nicki18229 April 4, 2011 at 10:34 pm

WOW that is something to see I’m sure it dose take lot of getting use to. I know what you mean about cabnet space as my nana’s house dose not have much nor pantrey just make shift one. I was wonder beisdes that little camping stove is their bigger one? How do you cook all your meals on it? I will say on thing I’m guilty of doing and my Nana yells at me when I wash dishes I don’t put stopper in the sink I just let the water run and wash the dishes under the running water so dose my dad she gets so mad at us! She say pulg the sink up I said why wash all these dirty dishes in dirty dish water just keeping the water running.. I guess in some ways I’m Indian hahaha I think in past life I must have been.


Sharell April 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi Nicki, well the main picture isn’t actually my kitchen. ;-) I have a camp stove with 3 burners instead of two, which is useful. The extra burner comes in handy. Plus, I have a separate electric rice steamer, so the rice goes in that and I only really ever cook with one or two pots. As for washing dishes, I actually prefer to wash them under running water too…. exactly like you say, it’s much cleaner. In India we have special detergent bars for it… you wipe the cloth over it, wipe the detergent onto the pot, and then rinse. I actually took some of those detergent bars home for my parents! My dad likes to wash dishes under running water too.


priya April 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Ohh yes…i hate the idea of washing utensils in a sink filled with dirty water…Its better under the running water


Yashasva April 9, 2011 at 4:52 am

…now I got answer to my question. So many years I was wondering what the heck that ‘plug”s usage in the sink. It never occured to me that utensils would be washed by accumulating water in the sink. I used to think it might be used for blocking roaches to enter the kitches. But seriously how could one even think of cleaning utensils that way??


Sharell April 9, 2011 at 10:58 am

I used to think it might be used for blocking roaches to enter the kitches.

Hehehe. That’s funny!

But seriously how could one even think of cleaning utensils that way??

I think that’s part of the reason why I used to HATE doing the dishes back home. I thought it was disgusting that all the food from the pots etc would accumulate in the sink full of water. I think it’s much cleaner to wash the Indian way. :-)


Joje April 28, 2011 at 4:04 am in Finland, if you have to do the dishes by hand… 1. rinse the dirty dishes 2. fill the sink with hot water and detergent & wash 3. empty the sink, rinse and fill with hot water, rinse the dishes and put them into the draining cupboard (or if you don’t mind wasting water, you rinse them under running water). Especially old houses have actually two sinks, so you can fill the other one with clean rinsing water. Saves time. Luckily, nowadays most people have dishwashers. When I lived in the UK my flatmates thought I was crazy with all my rinsing. No offense, but I couldn’t eat from the plates or drink from cups that were just “rinsed” in the soapy water and then left to dry with all that soap on….


Joje April 28, 2011 at 4:07 am

draining cupboard is not really a good term..sort of a drying cupboard… the best invention ever! wiki translation sucks even more… :)


D. Jain April 5, 2011 at 2:12 am

Great post! That looks much like my MIL’s kitchen in India. Kudos to you for getting used to cooking in one. I consider myself to be a really good cook (we even teach Indian cooking classes) but get me in one of those kitchens and I suddenly feel like a bumbling idiot.

Granite countertops have been trendy in the US for the past several years. Our kitchen here has them…a really pretty black/cream/brown granite, including a bar that is open to the kitchen so guests can hang out and chat while we cook, or we can eat more casual meals at it.


Manny April 5, 2011 at 2:19 am

Corian counter tops are more expensive than Polished black granite counter tops in India.



TAMASHA! April 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Corian counters are more expensive than MOST real stone in the US too. If sealed well stone is superior to Corian- if you put a hot pot on Corian it will scorch/burn & the seams of Corian will ‘burst’ if exposed to extreme heat.


Delhi_girl April 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I came here hoping to read a post on how you and your husband partook in some crazy cricket world cup winning celebrations on the streets of Bombay :)
And since you’re Australian, I am sure that understanding and enjoying the game was not the problem? :)


Sharell April 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Sorry to disappoint you. Just cos I’m Australian doesn’t mean I like sport. ;-) I’ve never watched it or taken an interest in it back home (especially the cricket… :-P ) so am even less interested in it here. Actually I quite disliked sport back home and was glad to leave people’s obsession with it there behind. lol. As boring as it may seem, I’d rather read a book…


Ashley April 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm


I loved this post! The photo you showed exactly reminds me of the kitchens I have been in while in India! I think that all of my friends would have absolutely no idea where to begin in an Indian kitchen having only ever been exposed to western kitchens. I was quite shocked myself the first time I saw one.

Have you ever noticed that the sink always seems to be in an awkward corner position? I am sure that the idea is for more counter space but I always feel like I am hitting my elbow against the wall…

Anyway, thank you for the excellent post!


Sharell April 6, 2011 at 6:41 am

Have you ever noticed that the sink always seems to be in an awkward corner position?

Aaah yes, that’s what it is.. the reason why things just don’t feel “comfortable”… now that I think about it, the kitchens I was used to back home all had sinks with counter space on either side. So you could put dirty dishes on one side, and the cleanly washed ones on the other. Here, the both have to sit on the same side due to the corner sink position (which my kitchen also has… and so does my inlaw’s… and sister in law’s!!! :-P )… it feels very disorganised.


Margaret April 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I read that you dont like to use a microwave because the food loses all the nutrients. I just happened to be reading “Consumer Reports on Health” article on just that topic. It says “microwaved food may retain mitamins BETTER than stovetop-cooked food. That’s because the microwave zaps it quickly and without much water: One study found that spinach retained only 77 percent of the B-vitamin folate when cooked on a stove-but retained ALL of its folate when cooked in a microwave.” Thought that was pretty interesting and thought I would share! Love your blog by the way!


Margaret April 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm

oops, meant “vitamins” not mitamins! :)


Sharell April 6, 2011 at 6:45 am

Hi Margaret, that’s an interesting point!! I know that food is supposed to lose its nutrients along with its water content. Mum is a big advocate of steamed veggies… and I even brought an electric steamer with me from Australia, so hopefully that’s helping. Who really knows what’s best for us. Maybe I’ll have to investigate getting a microwave. ;-)


Kiran Ghag April 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

typical kitchen would include open shelves underneath the platform. new apartments would still come up with open shelves and buyer would get the modular kitchen done. and yes, in newer apartments, exhaust fan is almost always available.
one thing not known here is sink-incinerator

water purifier is fairly standard accessory now but tap water is still potable in many places. new apartments do provide electrical outlet to help fix one.

typically, in the town now, the buyers would either keep the shelves as they are and have a cupboard made to store few things. those who wish to “make a kitchen” would get modular kitchen done. this normally would start from 80K and can go higher depending on the spending capacity. average is between 100-200K. This makeover includes getting cupboards and drawers under platform, granaite as you said, electric chimney, good color scheme, lights etc.

ovens are becoming common too.

induction heaters are not common. they would be found in expensive setups only.

now if we consider typical house to be a middle classed house, you would almost never find anything beyond shelves under platform. but you may definitely find aluminium or steel rack to hold utensils. Their design is typical, it holds plates of different sizes, spoons, glasses in multiples of 6. and i am sure you wont find them anywhere outside india, thats something worth featuring here if you want to cover the masses :)


Kiran Ghag April 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

aah, you have the utensil rack :)


padma April 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Mumbai flats are starved for space, so kitchens are small. Piped gas existed from 1930s to 1960s in certain parts of Mumbai and then closed down. It re-started around a decade back and is slowly spreading to all suburbs.

The kitchen design is centred around the stove (usually close to a window) and some storage space – granite stones to modular ones. The kitchen is not more than 150 sq. ft to 200 sq feet usually and there is a limit to what can be achieved in such a small space.

The western kitchen with a unit in the middle of the room and platforms attached to wall can only be dreamt of even in compartively expensive houses in Mumbai (Rs. 10 million and above equivalent to US$ 2,00,000 approx). While many would love to have a western type kitchen, lack of space prevents such a luxury. Also Indian cooking does not involve extensive use of grills and ovens.

Modular kitchen is quite commonly available and would cost around Rs. 2,00,000 for an average Indian made items. Modular kitchens look nice, but have limitations in terms of customisation. Also most of it is made of MDF and quite flimsly.

Dish washers are not popular. They do not wash the steel utensils and need lot of space.

I can understand what an expatriate would face if saddled with a typically Indian kitchen . I do not think this would change considering the pressure on space in most cities.


Emma Dey April 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm

When we were living in India one weird thing was that the countertops are always much higher than they are in the west, quite often narrower too. We are building an apartment in Mayapur in West Bengal it will be 3000 square feet and it is only costing us AU$90000 of course that is because we will be 150km from Kolkata so things are much cheaper. Our building will only be 3 floors. The bottom will be a ayurvedic clinic, then our apartment and then the owners of the clinic on top.


Abhishek April 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm

At last someone is standing against corruption in this country.


Val April 6, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Great post Sharell, interesting for both Indians and foreigners. I have been a practicing housewife in India for 8 years so quite adjusted but still missing some very practical European kitchen ideas ( I am Hungarian).
But..what I like here is: not many electronic gadgets, most kitchens run with a ‘Mixi’ (or food processor) and rice cooker only. Often no microwave, toaster, griller, coffe machine and so on. Anyway with so frequent power cuts, like in Hyderabad, no use of them.
I also like the ‘window above the sink’, thanks to the tropical climate. I love looking around while doing the dishes. In Europe, we can not run so thin water pipe on the outer wall, it would freeze wintertime.
Yes yes! Granite platform! Just beautiful and so useful.
I also like the water saving kind of dishwashing: soap the dishes with the sponge then wash it with running water. Gets clean and uses I guess minimum water.


Andrea April 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

Wow there are too many comments to read. I got up to M and decided i would voice my agrement. I am in Australia in the tropics. I’ve noticed that cupboards without doors are better for discouraging the cockroaches. Cockroaches dislike the dark. We also not only let our dishes drip dry, we might even put our cutlery back in its tray while wet, ditto the plates. Becuase of the nature of our tropical kitchen, i generally have to rinse a plate before i use it anyway. I also have to boil the kettle if i want hot water for my dishes. But i must stress that i know this is an extremely untypical western kitchen.

I visited a few indian kitchens while there, but in the middle class ones, i never noticed anything missing or wrong. They were all spotless. One was very spacious and open. Ok probably no dishwashers.


Mohit Gupta April 12, 2011 at 10:53 am

Andrea ,

“I’ve noticed that cupboards without doors are better for discouraging the cockroaches. Cockroaches dislike the dark. ”

Dont you thing that above statement is contradicting ? ;)


Amit Desai April 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

Her cockroaches dislike dark. They like to take a sun baths, afterall, they are from Australia. :-P


PVC Profiles April 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

Whatever be the case Indian wives love the way they live and handle their household. I actually respect all Indian house wives.


--Sunrise-- April 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

Awwwwhhhhhh Sharell, this blog post made me all sorts of nostalgic for India!! Funny how the tiniest of things remind you of home… :)

PS: I am surprised that in the midst of Mumbai you didn’t have any mention of the World Cup on your blog, lol. :)


Sharell December 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hi Sunrise, ah, the World Cup. I do have a post, but not the kind you might be expecting:

I’m a very poor example of an Australian in that regard — not a sports fan at all. ;-)


vinaya April 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

used an exhaust fan for my kitchen,a little higher above the stove.luckily have kitchen stove next to my window.


Vijay April 27, 2011 at 1:22 am

Well I could say 50/50 as my parents had got the nadi from tamilnadu and were telling me but one thing striked in my mind if it was real why did they not share with other why just their generations. Its knowledge and it has to be shared. As in the scientific world what ever we do we share and prove it with science. Well if they share and prove like science i would agree for it.


daniela May 2, 2011 at 6:02 am

Hi Sharell
as you wrote that in India “…dishes are washed not in a sink full of soapy water, but rather under the running tap.” I would like to state that not all Western countries have the same habits. Here in Brasil we also wash dishes under running water. So when I went to Canada I was quite shock to wash dishes in a bloqued sink. It didn´t feel too clean.

Keep up the great blog!

just to state


Piu December 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Amul sells chocolate chips. They have booths throughout the city, and you can request them that you need chocolate chips if they are out of stock. They should be able to order it for you.


Aga December 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Hey :) It looks just as a dirty kitchen of my parents house, even if I have all modern appliances, nothing helps for their mess, and what they consider clean is everything visible and at hand. The most annoying part is my messy father sticking his damned nose into the kitchen business, as without him it would be a different place.

You say they are afraid of explosion. They may be correct. There is very low civil responsibility feeling among Indians. Things are slow, disorganized, and Indians themselves are fed up with it- so I won’t be accused of being racist ( a favorite word for any critisism). Assume that someone does not take care for the infrastructure properly. There is one small step to a big blow.


bhavna July 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Its great that ur making people aware in identifying the problem.
I want to do a project work on modular kitchens but i m stucked on what topis should i do. I thought of comparing the various modular kitchens brand in mumbai and finding the problem areas. Can u please help me for more the same field.ASAP.


Sharell शारेल July 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hi Bhavna, sounds like an interesting project. I think comparing designs of modular kitchens would be a good idea — some are definitely better than others. And in the comparison, you could definitely highlight the problem areas.


Dev February 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Shunning washing machines is new to me actually which I think it is due to the electricity & water bill and also since the bai (servant/maid) does it alongside other chores which turns out cheaper.

Washing machines are becoming common ( in my experience ) but dishwashers dont exist at all.

As for piped gas, you are right about the panicky residents part.Gas cylinders will be common until the electricity woes are solved.

Newer homes have modular kitchens, but you must pay for it extra and most people dont.It all comes down to counting your paisa.


Modular kitchens Bangalore July 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

The words that you used for Indian kitchen, i am totally agree with that. But Now the furniture and furnishing industry is growing in India. Modular kitchens are rapidly becoming integral part of the Indian residential market. The rapidly growing residential complexes, changing lifestyle, and Western influence have stimulated the demand for modular kitchen across the country. Besides, the companies are also offering lucrative price range for both value conscious and luxury seekers, inducing high demand for modular kitchens. Consequently, we anticipate that the modular kitchen market in India will grow at a CAGR of around 33% during 2010-2014.


Radha April 18, 2014 at 4:56 am

The article is wrongly titled… This should be called as western half baked poorly thought solutions to Indian kitchen designs, forced by marketing, which don’t suit Indian cooking. Indians traditionally sit and cook for ergonomic reasons, and water is used for cleaning everything for hygenic reasons. Storage is normally in open with hanging cabinets or simple hangers, why should we hide everything? More importantly each kitchen is decorated beautifully and is unique. It is western idea to stand and cook, to not use water and to hide everything and have same looking boring only way to do everything! Hopefully we rediscover great Indian science and implement the keg effective, healthy, simple and beautiful solutions…


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