Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

Hi There,


I came across this term, Bunooing, which I'd never heard before. I had a look around to try and understand the method behind it, but came across a number of inferences on what bhunooing is and how it works, some of which were conflicting and a little confusing. I would be very grateful if someone could clear this up for me and perhaps answer a few questions. This is my understanding of bhunooing so far:-


Essentially, this is a method of releasing essential oils that are cooped up in your dry spices and leaves too. The types of spices used are the hard spices such as cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds etc. As I understand it powdered spice can be added, but nearer the end of the bhunooing process.


The thinking behind this method is that spices take on moisture over time which dilutes the essential oils in the spices. By slow frying the spices you are gently evaporating the water and releasing the concentrated essential oils from the spice which enhances the power of spice, giving it more punch.


The bhunooing process can be used to make a vibrant base for your gravy. To do this, heat a good amount of oil on high and then bring it down to a medium heat. Add your spices and onion and slowly fry until the onion turns a light brown. At this point add your liquid/ gravy.

Some questions that I have are:-

  • Why heat the oil to hot and bring to medium? Why not just heat to medium?
  • Does bhunooing always have to include onions?
  • The first time I tried this, the onions absorbed all of the oil after a while - is this okay? Or does it mean that I used too much oil?
  • Is this the same, or does it have any relation to the bhuna?
  • I have come across articles and recipes that refer to bhunooing and suggest that it's (perhaps) just the process of slow cooking ingredients on a flame/ hob - is this correct?
  • How long should I be frying the spices for?

I would be very grateful for any help you can provide.


Thank you in advance


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you cdh, your response is much appreciated.


I had already read this post which actually made things a little more frustrating for me. BBhasin and Suvir Saran are not talking about Bhunooing, they are refering to it in a discussion about oil separation. Their references suggest that knowledge of the process is common knowledge among Indian chef's which is perhaps why it's so hard to find a succinct definition - perhaps everyone understands bhunooing apart from me!


A re-read of the article did, however, answer one of my points:-


1. The first time I tried this, the onions absorbed all of the oil.

Answer:- I didn't wait long enough for the oil separation to occur (thanks BBhasin), I will try again today with more patience  :smile:


I also notice that the spelling is slightly different here and that googling "the Bhunao method" brings far more results than my original spelling. I will research further and for those, like me, who are uninitiated I will share my findings.


Thanks again cdh :-)

  • Like 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have the book Prashad:  Cooking with Indian Masters by J. Inder Singh Kalra. He also taps into the expertise of many of India's well known chefs.  It is a fabulous book with quite involved recipes.  There is no index just a listing of recipes in their Indian names so difficult to find stuff but I am working on indexing it for myself.  I hope I am not breaking any posting rules regarding copy right, here goes:


In the Preface he states:  "It is unfortunate that the excessive use of desi ghee or vegetable fat and masala by a handful of half-baked Chefs made ours an unsaleable food. It was 'rich'--read that as 'fatty- and 'spicy'- to be read 'chilli hot'.  Our food is 'rich' but not 'fatty'.  It is true that we sometimes cook in excess fat, but the amazing thing about our cuisine is that the cooking is deemed complete when the fat leaves the sides (of the utensil in which the food is being cooked) or comes to the surface.  In other words, the ingredient 'expels' all fat when fully cooked.  The excess fat merely eases the cooking process and is supposed to be drained off before service.  In fact, the drained fat or 'rogan' can be re-used and inevitably makes a better fat medium because of the flavour and aroma of spices it has acquired during the cooking of the first delicacy."


In the Culinary Terms section of the book he states:  "The heart and soul of India's culinary art is to be able to combine the two with the nitty-gritty of Indian cooking:  "dum, bhunao, talna, baghar, dhuanaar and bhunnana".  Each one of these 'methods' or a combination of two or three or even all may be necessary to prepare a delicacy."  He goes on to describe each one of these methods in detail. Here is what he says about "Bhunao"


"Bhunao is a combination of light stewing, sautéing and stir frying.  It is the process of cooking over medium to high heat, adding small quantities of liquid - water or yoghurt - to prevent the ingredients from sticking, which also makes it necessary to stir constantly.  Almost every recipe needs bhunao at some stage, very often at more than one stage. 


At the outset it may be the spices and/or ingredients like onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, etc., which require bhunao.  The process would not only extract the flavour of each of the spices and/or ingredients, but also ensure that they do not get burnt or remain raw.  In fact, the masala must be fully cooked.


Subsequently, the main ingredient may also require bhunao.  This ensures that the initial cooking is done in the ingredients' own juices.  The process is complete only when the fat leaves the masala or the sides. 


Bhunao is not a complete process in itself but a part of the process that helps to prepare a dish.  It usually requires the addition of substantial quantities of liquid to complete the cooking process."


In his recipes when he wants you to use this method he uses the term "bhunno"  for example here is an excerpt from a recipe: "Heat ghee in a handi, add whole garam masala and salute over medium heat until it begins to crackle.  Add boiled onion paste, bhunno for 2 minutes, add the ginger and garlic pastes dissolved in 1/4 cup of water then stir for a minutes......."

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

typo: "Heat ghee in a handi, add whole garam masala and salute over medium heat until it begins to crackle."  Should be ...."and saute over medium heat...."  

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Okananogancook - Does he specify a particular quantity/type of liquid (water or yogourt) to be added during the bhunno-ing process ... for instance in the above recipe excerpt?

Per his definition, it seems that one must add one of those while bhunno-ing and yet that 'recipe' seems not to discuss that but adds liquid seemingly after that bhunno part is done (when the garlic and ginger pastes dissolved in water are added)? (Or am I misunderstanding something?)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

In his definition of bhunoa he does not specify how much water or yogurt.


 I guess I should have included the whole method for the recipe which illustrates the liquid additions.  I was just trying to show the use of the word "bhunno".  


The boiled onion paste quantity is 2/3 cup which would contain some moisture which would add in the bhunoa process (the paste is made by frying onions with some water until they are cooked and most of the water is evaporated then it is blended....it would still need to be quite moist in order to blend it, I would think.).


The rest of the recipe states:  After the water and pastes are added then chopped ginger and green chillies are added and stirred for 30 seconds.  Then red chillies and coriander powder are added and stirred for 30 seconds.  Then 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt and salt are added along with 3/4 c water.  It is brought to a boil and simmered until the fat leaves the masala (the second bhunoa in the recipe as he described in this definition).  After that fresh coriander is added along with 1 1/3 lb of mushrooms and simmered for 2 minutes then cashew nut paste is stirred in and brought to a boil before serving.


Looking at a few of the other recipes they usually have you add to spices either onion paste or garlic paste and 4 to 6 tablespoons of water to bhunno or just onions with the spices which would provide the moisture to help prevent burning.

  The onion pastes are onions blended with water then reduced until most of the liquid has evaporated or onions fried then blended with some yoghurt to make a paste.  Quite often the second bhunoa involves tomatoes, nut pastes, yoghurt.


Hope that answers your questions, if not ask again.




  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phill Bernier

Is this a topic you are still interested in? Of course I am a member who is just seeing this. Forgive me if you are done with the topic. 


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Suvir Saran
      What role do they play in your Indian kitchen?
      Do you use it in other dishes you prepare? Maybe even outside of the Indian food realm.
      Do you find it easy to find Cilantro?
      What parts of cilantro do you use?
      How do you keep it fresh?
    • By bague25
      Which are the pickles you have in your pantry right now?
      Which are the ones you dream of?
      Any recipes? Any secrets? Any reading material?
      Please share - as Monica says Inquiring minds want to know...
    • By Bhukhhad
      Breakfast in India vs Breakfast in our homes outside India
      My breakfasts have varied from the time I started to cook for myself instead of just enjoying my Mother’s cooking. At first they were a mix-match of meal fixings, or just dinner leftovers. Or the good old breakfast cereal and milk. But as the years passed and I was more organized, the meals I enjoyed in my Mother’s home began to swim in my memories. And I began to prepare those for my family. However, I am no amazonian chef, so depending on  the hectic nature of the days plans, I switched back and forth from convenience with taste, to elaborate and of course tasty breakfasts. We do have both vegetarian and non vegetarian foods but Indian breakfasts will mostly be vegetarian. 
      So here are some of the things I might make: 
      1. Poha as in mostly ‘kande pohe’.
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      3. Masala toast
      4. Indian Omelette
      5. Handwo piece
      6. Thepla
      7. Vaghareli rotli
      8. Dhokla chutney
      9. Idli sambhar
      10. Leftover sabji
      11. Muthiya
      12. Khakhra
      13. Upma
      14. Paratha
      1. Kande Pohe: 
      The dish derives its name from Maharashtra where the Kande Pohe are celebrated as breakfast. They can of course like any breakfast, be eaten at any time. 
      Pohe/ Poha are steamed rice grains that have been beaten flat and then again redried. So they are like Rice flakes. Except they are hand pounded, so have a knobbly texture. 
      You get several varieties in the market. I prefer the thick white variety. 
      1 cup dry poha per person
      1 medium onion sliced
      1/2 jalapeno deseeded
      1 sprig curry leaves
      2 small garlic cloves
      1/4 t cumin seeds
      1/2 lemon 
      1/8 t asafoetida
      1/4 t turmeric
      small handful of cilantro leaves
      1T fresh grated coconut
      2 T Peanut oil 
      salt to taste
      sugar to taste
      In a pan heat some oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter, add sliced onions and stir. Saute on medium heat till they turn slightly browned here and there. Do not burn the onions. 
      Meanwhile wash the Poha in a colander and drain. Do this two or three times to get rid of any dirt and also to allow them to rehydrate. They do not need soaking. Fluff the poha with a fork. Add salt sugar turmeric asafoetida and chopped cilantro. Mix and set aside. 
      Once the onions are ready add minced garlic and chopped jalapeno along with the curry leaf sprig. 
      Turn the heat to low and add the poha mixture. Stir to coat and to allow the turmeric and asafoetida to cook. The poha will turn mildly yellow and start giving a wonderful fragrance. 
      Turn off the heat. Fluff gently and plate. Garnish with fresh grated coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice. 
      Finger licking good!! 
      Now when I make this next I will post a picture. 
      Update: Ok I felt the urge to have Kande Pohe for tonight’s dinner. So here is a picture. I am certain to enjoy it for breakfast as well. The measurement of 1 cup poha per person is too much for one meal. But carried over to another meal thats super good! I will also have some stir fried bok choy greens made in the same kadhai after the poha was done, and some cooked and sliced beetroot for salad. My family will add some haldiram sev on the poha for extra crunch! And we will all have some chaas to round off this meal. 
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      These are essentially crepes but in the Indian style. 
      1/2 cup sieved garbanzo bean (Besan) flour. 
      Water to form a thin batter
      1T plain yogurt 
      1/2 t ginger garlic paste 
      1/4 or less green chili crushed
      2 t heated oil *
      pinch asafoetida
      pinch turmeric 
      salt to taste
      chopped cilantro (two sprigs)
      some ‘masala’ from a readymade pickle
      mix the ingredients together except oil. Heat oil in a separate pan and add about 1 to 2 t of the hot oil onto the batter. It will sizzle. Use a whisk to stir thoroughly. The batter should be pouring consistency. 
      Let the batter soak for about half an hour if possible. 
      On a hot griddle, pour a ladle full of the batter. Turn the griddle with your wrist to spread the batter around. Cook on moderate to high flame. Flip the crepe when all the sides look like they are ready. You can add a little oil to the sides of the frying pan to make the edges crispy. 
      In my home we usually have a Besan cheela with some yogurt its a quick and filling breakfast. You can have a small salad or fruit with it to make it more complete. Or fill the center of the cheela with some cottage cheese and fold for added creaminess! 
      3. Masala Toast : 
      1 slice of bread (your choice) toasted
      1/2 small red onion minced
      1 medium roma tomato diced (or whatever you have)
      cilantro (few leaves)
      1/8 t cumin (optional)
      1/4 t chaat masala ( available in stores)
      1 inch cube paneer
      1 T peanut oil
      pinch turmeric (optional)
      Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions. Add the tomato and cook down to mush. Crumble the paneer and add the dry spices. Stir for a few seconds to warm the paneer. Add the cilantro and though I have not written it as an ingredient, I like a few drops of lemon juice. Do not overcook paneer.
      I started this topic because someone asked for Indian recipes on the new forum. I don’t think they have seen any yet. I hope they find this useful. I am enjoying it. 
      I will add recipes to the list slowly. I have to however add that after a certain ‘age’ I have now resorted to having to make sure I have three things for breakfast besides coffee: a glass of water, a small portion of fruit and a small portion of some protein not necessarily meat. 

    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.

      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...