Handi is a type of utensil that has a spherical bottom with a broad rimmed opening at the top. Handiya is a smaller version of Handi.
Handis can be made of clay, brass and copper. Nowadays, the stainless steel handis are used more than one made of any other material. Some of the stainless steel handis may have the exterior clad with copper especially at the base. This helps in better heat distribution and conductivity.The bottom-half of a handi is spherical and deep, and this tapers linearly into a narrow neck towards the top. The diameter at the top is about 60% of the diameter of the bottom of the handi. The opening at the top has a narrow neck and flares out to form a rim. As there is no handle the utensil is lifted by holding this rim.
Handis are used for boiling liquids such as milk, preparing semi - gravy food items like kheer, sambhar, rasam, daal, etc.
The narrow opening at the top helps in trapping and retaining heat for a longer time.
Larger handis are used for cooking pulavs/biryanis as well as meats in the Dum Phukt fashion. For this, the handi's mouth is covered with a plate and the edges are sealed with a thick and single layer of dough and the Handi is left on charcoal for several hours till the pulav/biryani is to be served. The heat creates steam, which condenses and rolls down the sloped walls. 'Dum' means warm breath signifying the steam. The 'Pukht' means choking. 'Dum Pukht' means choking the steam and preventing it from escaping. This style of cooking is called 'Dum Pukht' in Indian cooking and imparts a wonderful aromatic flavour to the dish.
Handis made of copper are used to serve food nowadays at homes and more specifically in Indian restaurants. In urban India such utensils are also used as a show pieces to increase the aesthetic ambience of the kitchens or homes!