Mortar and Pestle is a highly regarded piece of kitchen cookware found in most Thai Kitchen to pound and blend spices, chillies, ginger, galangal etc to get that specific texture which the modern blender just cannot create. It is perfect for making sauces, curry pastes and salads and should preferably be made out of granite, clay or wood.
Food lovers are usually very passionate about their kitchen as I am about mine. If you want to enjoy the tantalizing taste of Thai food, it is a good idea to invest in certain cookware found in most Thai Kitchen.
Mind you, I do not believe we need to invest in very expensive cookwares or buy every single utensil that we think we need. On the contrary, as long as you invest in that few essential ones, the rest are just from your current stock in the kitchen.
A high quality mortar and pestle is always precious to a Thai cook as he or she knows it will be a good life time investment to have in a Thai Kitchen.
If you can, purchase one that is carved out of solid granite as it will probably outlast your lifetime seeing they are durable, heavy and solid.
You will be able to find different sizes available for purchase:
* 6" - 1.5 cup capacities; weighs 7 lbs; 4 1/2" inner bowl; 4" height with a 6" pestle.
* 7" - 2-3 cup capacities; weighs 12 lbs; 5" inner bowl; 4.5" height with a 7" pestle.
* 8" - 3-4 cup capacities; weighs 15-17 lbs; 5.5" inner bowl; 5" height with a 7.5" pestle.
* 9" - 5-6 cup capacities; weighs 24 lbs; 6 1/2" inner bowl; 6" height with a 8" pestle.
For home cooks like us, you will find that most household will prefer the 6" as it is the smallest and the lightest making it easier for us to lift and move around the kitchen and sink.
The pounding, grinding and mashing of the ingredients will infuse the flavors of the garlic, lemongrass or chili paste, releasing the oils and bringing out the flavors of the herbs and spices into seasoning sauces and paste for the authentic Thai taste.
You will find the inside to be polished smooth so flavors of the food does not linger in it and the more often you use it, the better it will age.
However, if you are preparing the "Som Tum" or Papaya Salad dish, you will need the "Laos-Styled Mortar and Pestle" which is made of long-lasting clay for the mortar and usually wood for the pestle and is much deeper and wider.
Known as Kruk or Kleuk in Thai, this extra deep cone-shaped bowl is great in mixing, crushing and grinding any salad ingredients to blend and infuse the flavors together.
Ok, I guess you can probably use the modern day food blender or food processor in its place, but frankly, the taste and texture is just not the same.
I know that this amazing cookware (though a much smaller one in size) is also used to grind medicine in traditional Chinese Medicine Shops as I often see them on the bench tops in these shops that is often nestled in between the shopping strips.
A word of advice though, it is a good idea to fold a dish cloth or tea towel and place it under the mortar before you start pounding it with the pestle so as not to damage your bench top.
Mortar and Pestle is also super easy to clean - just wash it under the sink with warm soapy water and rinse.
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