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Sumeet Mixer-Grinder

Here’s my confession about falling for an Indian blender. There have been others—my nonsense Hamilton Beach from cooking school, my worn but trustworthy Braun, that flashy one-night stand from Target—but none have the same dedicated place in my heart or on my counter.

This radio piece first aired on KQED’s “Pacific Time” on May 17, 2007.

Note: For reliability and customer service, the brand highlighted in this interview has been surpassed by Preethi and Meenumix. (A special callout here to Dan Haynes for reminding me of this!) If you’re looking to order one of these special machines, check out Perfect Peninsula based in Texas or the Meenumix website.

Above: Wide, flat blades situated low help grind hard spices super-fine.


Sydnie Kohara: Welcome back to Pacific Time, I’m Sydnie Kohara.  Back in the 70’s when it was introduced, the food processor became the must-have gadget for the American kitchen. Suddenly slicing and dicing, mixing and blending was never so easy.  But these days, those machines just aren’t good enough for the demands of some Asian American foodies.  Pacific Time’s kitchen commentator is Thy Tran:

Thy: Dosa, vada, coconut chutney, garam masala, egg curry -- if you like South Asian food as much as I do, you may have tried to make these yourself. And, like me, you may have wondered just how you’re supposed to puree a hard, dry lentil or reduce a cinnamon stick to fine powder in the confines of your own home.

Oh, you can try a food processor or a coffee mill. But the appliance South Asian cooks can’t do without is the mixer-grinder. My friends recommended a Sumeet Asia Kitchen Machine International Mixer-Grinder.

It might take visiting every single Indian bazaar in your town, calling Toronto to get on the distributor’s waiting list, or begging your South Asian friends to bring one back from a trip home. Expect to pay five times as much as a regular blender. And you’ll need to clear out an entire cabinet to house one.

I visited the kitchen of Vidya Parameswaran and Ramach Rajagopalan in Fremont, California, to find out if it’s really worth all that extra effort.

(Kitchen sizzling sounds)

Ramach: It's certainly worth it. The main difference being half a kilowatt of power. These blenders, they're extremely powerful when compared to let's say an ordinary blender that you can find in any of the supermarkets. And this is important for any traditional Indian cooking, where you just need the sheer power to grind all the dry spices or any of the gravies that you make.

(Pouring water, blending)

Thy: Vidya and Ramach received their mixer-grinder as a wedding gift three years ago. Since then, they’ve used it three or four times a week.

Vidya: The sounds are different. When it's to a finer paste, you hear a much more smoother sound, you won't hear the cracking kind of sound.

(High speed blending)

Vidya: I think it's done. We can check it out. It's done now, it's a much smoother paste.

Thy: These mixer-grinders don’t look like your everyday blender: A single, no-nonsense dial. Plump grinding bowls. A rectangular base three times the size of a Sunbeam. The design is all about sheer power.

Vidya: The shape is kind of conical, and it's tall. But of course, it comes with different types of containers. One of them is the taller one where you can add a lot more water, and you can grind a lot more. And the smaller one is usually the dry one, but it's much more enclosed, so there's no humidity or moisture that enters.  

(Adding dry ingredients)

Vidya: We don't want moisture in most of the dry spices because we use it for a long period of time. We store it, and you won't want the powder to get rancid or spoiled quicker. So you absolutely want it to be completely dry.

(Pulsing dry ingredients)

Vidya: You pretty much use a pulsing motion.

(Pulsing dry ingredients).

Thy: I must admit, I succumbed to the Sumeet Asian Kitchen Machine International Mixer-Grinder for my own cooking. From grinding rice for banh xeo to pulverizing lemongrass for a proper rempah, it makes tasting home that much easier.

For Pacific Time, this is Thy Tran in San Francisco.


May 2007