My Kitchen Equipment, Part Two – Mortar and Pestle

mortar and pestle is a tool used to crush, grind, and mix solid substances This is technically called trituration. The pestle is the heavy hand-held object, the end of which is used for crushing and grinding. The mortar is the bowl, typically made of hard wood, ceramic or stone. The substance to be ground is placed in the mortar and ground, crushed or mixed with the pestle. In the east, objects for grinding and pulverising grains and herbs, medicines and spices have been used for millenia.

saffron yogurt:

My mortar and pestle are granite and weigh well over 7 kilos. I use them for dry spices and wet herbs like lemongrass, chili, ginger and galangal. Wooden or ceramic mortars are pretty much useless for my needs. My set are from Vietnam.

The English word mortar derives from classical Latin mortarium, meaning, among several other usages, “receptacle for pounding” and “product of grinding or pounding”. The classical Latin pistillum, meaning “pounder”, led to English pestle. The Roman poet Juvenal applied both mortarium and pistillum to articles used in the preparation of drugs, reflecting the early use of the mortar and pestle as a pharmacist’s or apothecary’s symbol.


Here I am grinding some cardamom pods. Actually I am cracking open the pods and removing the seeds, then crushing the seeds coarsely. After I ground up my cardamom, I mixed it with hot milk and saffron thread, brought it to a boil, allowed it to cool to room temperature, then I added a spoonful of yogurt and poured it all into a thermos. That’s my cardamom-scented saffron yougurt in the bowl. Very delicious.

altiplano boys:

Here I am at 4000 metres on the Bolivian altiplano being offered a handmade spice grinding mortar and pestle of the flat variety. Too heavy to bring home, alas.

Posted by Kurma on 14/7/11; 4:15:56 AM

Life and Travel

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