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helenas

Mortar and Pestle – The Topic

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I grew up knowing about the virtues of a good molcajete and I've lived in Thailand where the pounding of a mortar and pestle could be part of the local soundtrack. I've never understood the tiny marble ones in many homes but I love my super heavy granite one. How do you feel about this ancient device for mushing things up?

I've never found a good molcajete, even in Mexico, but a salsa made in one is sublime. Making aioli in a mortar and pestle is something we should all experience and the results are beyond the realms of a food processor. I don't use mine as often as I should but the truth is that that I want a bigger one. I think I may be crazy but I want a huge one, I mean really big. I want one big enough to make aioli for a crowd. The biggest I've found is 5-6 cups. I think I may need something bigger. Why? I have no idea.

Pound it out...

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I have a small marble one and a small steel (?) one. I wish I had a huge granite one, those seem like the best. My marble one sends little white chips flying! (Or was it my heavy-handed technique? Ha ha ha.)

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It's the same with kitchen knives -- you need a big one and a small one.

Different materials and sizes are just nice to have. There are several in my kitchen but it's the big stone mortar and pestle that I use most. The wooden ones are rarely used.

The small marble one is for kitchen apothecary where a small amount of seeds/spice/nuts/whatever is required. It's white, smooth and deep which helps minimize waste.

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I have three I use for various things. My first was a 8 cup granite Thai mortar that I got to make curries and various pastes but lack of available time has pretty much stopped it's use. The next one I got was a Japanese Suribachi used mostly for grinding spices. And I got this beast to make Indian pastes of various kinds. It was purchased at a small Indian spice store and apparently is difficult to find in large sizes. The pestle is HUGE...easily 6 inches round and about 18 inches long. The inside is roughly chisled and does a good job of breaking up garlic, peppers, herbs and such. I love it. The goop in the picture was for a Parsi Lamb dish.

IMG_1223.jpg

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It's the same with kitchen knives -- you need a big one and a small one.

Different materials and sizes are just nice to have. There are several in my kitchen but it's the big stone mortar and pestle that I use most. The wooden ones are rarely used.

The small marble one is for kitchen apothecary where a small amount of seeds/spice/nuts/whatever is required. It's white, smooth and deep which helps minimize waste.

Yup, it's the same for us. Yoonhi has a smaller ceramic Korean one with a lid (with a hole for the pestle) that's only used for pounding sesame, and we've got a small marble one for grinding spices, and then we've got the 25 lb monster granite one for when you really want to punish something (and which I love for grinding down peppercorns).

gallery_28660_5178_45344.jpg

I also like the texture in the granite one, rather than a polished mortar, as it gives more purchase for breaking things down (but that's just me).

As a note, Yoonhi forces me to put a pad under the mortar before using it on the counters.

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. . . . Yoonhi has a smaller ceramic Korean one with a lid (with a hole for the pestle) that's only used for pounding sesame, and we've got a small marble one for grinding spices, and then we've got the 25 lb monster granite one for when you really want to punish something (and which I love for grinding down peppercorns).

That's a good point, it's handy to have dedicated devices to avoid flavour and colour transfer.

We have an electric burr coffee grinder, an electric blade spice grinder, a golden wood curry spoon, a pinkish wood tomato sauce spoon and the big stone mortar and pestle which is reserved for washable activities like pesto and salad dressing.

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I want a really big one and they are difficult to find. A couple of years ago I broke my giant one made by Mason Cash back in the 1960s - It was one that was half-glazed on the outside, not the smaller viterous china ones.

I have a bunch of mortar and pestles, suribachis, etc., different sizes but I need something deep and the big one I saw on Tommy Tang's show (saw it again on another segment last Saturday) was much larger than any I can find for sale. Just have to keep looking and hope that someone will import them. Probably not many people want one that size.

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I sing this ode to my mortars and pestles.

I have three different mortar & pestle duos, and I use two of them several times a week. (The big somtam one I use a lot less often.) I have a small marble one with a bowl that fits about 3/4 cup or so, which I use mainly for cracking a few peppercorns or mashing a garlic clove with salt. The bigger granite one has about a 2 1/2 cup bowl, and that's the one I've been using regularly as of late.

What they say about pesto made in a mortar is true. Even if you finish it in a blender (I couldn't get every leaf bashed), the silky texture simply can't be had any other way. Ditto for marinades: this weekend, I created one with (in order) garlic, black pepper, fresh oregano, fresh rosemary, parsley, and olive oil that was easy and fantastic.

There's also something calming about using a mortar and pestle, for it (they?) gives you an appreciation of the role that each element plays in a final whole. (David Thompson writes about this awareness in his definitive Thai Food.) I also think that you develop a more nuanced sense of texture from the process.

Anchovies and olives for puttanesca, avocado for guacamole... the options are nearly endless. Are other folks feeling it for their M&Ps?

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I have one made of ceramics, Mason Cash, about a finger wide. Works very well and goes in the dishwasher, which is required in my house ;-)

I'd like it to be a bit larger, but the next size was just too expensive for something I rarely use. It is very durable though, not a chip in it yet. But then I don't use it very often, less than 10 times a year I'd bet.

the Mexican ones have been interesting to me, but I was never sure if you ever get them smooth or if you end up either eating lots of volcanic rock or if you end up throwing out a lot of what ever you put in there because it's stuck in the little bubble holes.

I've been looking for a larger one, the size of the mexican ones but with a smoother surface. Can't find any - not that I'm looking around like crazy. there are tons of small ones the size of mine made of just about anything it seems though.

I've used tumeric, curry, saffron in mine and it never stained - to my surprise. I'd recommend that brand.

Oliver

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the Mexican ones have been interesting to me, but I was never sure if you ever get them smooth or if you end up either eating lots of volcanic rock or if you end up throwing out a lot of what ever you put in there because it's stuck in the little bubble holes.

No rocks at all, little lost product. The texture of a molcajete helps to create coarse-textured items like salsas.

I've been looking for a larger one, the size of the mexican ones but with a smoother surface. Can't find any - not that I'm looking around like crazy.

Hit any local Asian market and you'll probably find granite ones that won't cost too much.

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Are other folks feeling it for their M&Ps?

When mine (granite Thai one, circa 1968 from Thailand) isn't in use in the kitchen, it is a "decoration" on an end table in my living room. Feel the love. 30+ year's worth of love. Oh, and it does a magnificent job of crushing, smashing and releasing tension from the pestal user.

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Now sure if this is the right place but I am looking for a good Mortar and Pestle. I want some about 4x4 and am not really interested in ceramic or wood. There seems to be a huge selection out there so I thought I would defer to the experts. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help.

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I was in Toronto on the weekend, so I stopped into a restaurant supply store in Chinatown (Tap Phong, for those of you who know it) and picked up this little beauty.

Mortar.jpg

It's smooth stone, made in Thailand, was labeled 8" (though the inside of the bowl measures about 6.5" across), weighs more than 18.5 pounds, and has a capacity of about 5 cups. It cost me CAD$40 which, reading back over this thread, was maybe a bit higher than necessary, unless prices have moved considerably in the past couple of years.

I'm assuming I can use it for most of my mortar-and-pestle needs, though I bought it primarily for making Thai curry pastes at the moment. Do I need to do anything to it before using it other than just wash it out? Does it need to be "seasoned"?

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A buddy of mine who is a talented stone sculptor recently gifted me this mortar made out of Adirondack gabbro. The little dot in the bowl is a US quarter for scale. Mkayahara, this was raw stone as your mortar appears to be. I ground a bunch of rice in it to smooth it a bit, but otherwise haven't seasoned it. The gabbro is very dense and hasn't yet picked up any stains or lingering odors.mortar.jpg

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I've got five, everything from a small apothecary's ceramic pair, through a couple of granites, a wood (just for garlic), and a turned steel (just for pastes and other things that would stain or flavour my other sets), right up to a riverstone honker that's used for grating and pounding yuca (manioc) in pursuit of a dish called Muchines.

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Thai mortar & pestles do not need to be seasoned. Just rinse it out thoroughly.

Never wash it with soap. If you need to clean it, put a solution of 1/3 white vinegar 2/3 water in it for 15-30 minutes, then rinse out.

One of the greatest cooking tools known to man! (My avatar swears to it.)

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The little dot in the bowl is a US quarter for scale.

Sorry, but like most people, I have no idea how big or small a US quarter is. Approximately how wide is the thing in inches or centimetres?

It certainly looks big.

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it's the same size as a 10 pence piece, if that means anything....

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it's the same size as a 10 pence piece, if that means anything....

No.

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quarter = 2.43 cm wide

Thank you. I didn't mean to be awkward, but I think people forget that this is the internet which is international. There are many members who are not American and have never been to America. If I post a picture showing anything using a 1 Yuan coin for scale, it would be meaningless to most Americans, but recognisable to any Chinese national (and there are a lot, lot more of them!)

Anyway. Here are my babies.

3mps.jpg

From left to right:

Made from Dali marble, this is my favourite. I use it mainly for grinding spices, garlic, ginger etc. It doesn't seem to absorb tastes. Dali is a town in Yunnan province of southern China. It is so famous for its marble that the standard Chinese for marble literally translates as "Dali stone". I bought this directly from the factory (more of a workshop really) and lugged it a long way home. It weighs just under 2 kilograms and stands 13 cm high. The bowl is 350ml. Here it is with a one Yuan coin for scale! :unsure:

1mp.jpg

Centre is a little (150ml bowl) cheap wooden one which I use to grind sugar. It tends to come in lumps here (and I don't mean perfect cubes).

Then a ceramic one which mainly gets used for sauces and vinaigrettes etc. It also has a 350ml bowl.

I do want one of those Thai granite ones, though

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Sorry, no American conspiracy to deny international readers the dimensions of my mortar was afoot. The quarter was simply what I had in my pocket when I took a quick photo. The mortar's dimensions are 56 x 42 cm and @ 8cm deep.


Edited by Raw/Cooked (log)
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I got the 8-inch (just over 20 cm) version from a thai importer (http://importfood.com/mortarpestle.html) and am very happy with it, though it isn't attractive. It is very heavy--so I keep a mat underneath it so that it doesn't scratch the countertop. I use it primarly to grind spices for curries and similar purposes. It grinds them up in a hurry with relatively little effort. A quick rinse seems to do away with residuals.

I also have a much smaller white marble one--the small pestle hurts my hand for all but the smallest tasks.

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I got the 8-inch (just over 20 cm) version from a thai importer (http://importfood.co...rtarpestle.html) and am very happy with it, though it isn't attractive. It is very heavy--so I keep a mat underneath it so that it doesn't scratch the countertop. I use it primarly to grind spices for curries and similar purposes. It grinds them up in a hurry with relatively little effort. A quick rinse seems to do away with residuals.

I also have a much smaller white marble one--the small pestle hurts my hand for all but the smallest tasks.

I have the same one and can't say enough... it's the best! I like making fresh nut butters in it. Not in quantity but for a quick 1-2 servings its awesome.

but look what i found a good price difference, it's even the same vendor... but even then, prob still worth the extra bucks. I've had it for quite some time. It's quite heavy, thus durable.

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