Traditional Kerala Cooking

Traditional Kerala cooking involved the use of some quaint equipment and primitive fires. These equipment depended on human effort (instead of electric power) to pound, grind, blend and cook. This was available in sufficient quantities in the predominantly rural and agricultural Kerala households.

The equipment and practices are becoming almost extinct and we thought it would be a good idea to record these before the specimens disappear completely.

The hand pounder The hand pounder pictured right was used to dehusk paddy and to powder grains and other foodstuff. The paddy or other material was put in the largish cup in the middle, and the long pole was used to pound it (just right) to produce rice or powder.

The paste maker The ammi pictured left was used to make pastes. For example, coconut gratings might be put at one end, water added in small quantities and the round stone was rolled over the material to turn them into a paste.When spices like chillies and ginger were added to the cocount, the resulting paste would be a chutney.

The wet grinder The wet grinder (pic right) was used to make different kinds of pastes. A typical use was for making iddali or dosa paste. Rice and water were put in the cup and the heavy stone worked round and round by hand to convert it into a liquid paste. Next urad dal and water were converted into paste similarly. The two pastes were mixed and fermented overnight to make the mixture that was the raw material for iddali and dosa.

Kerala Hand Mill The hand mill pictured left seems to be one item that is yet to have a modern version. It is used to split dals like black gram and green gram. After splitting and soaking, it becomes quite easy to remove the husk and process the dals. Split and soaked black gram is ground to a liquid dough for iddali and dosa. Split green gram is used as an ingredient in curries. The hand mill could also be used to granulate grains.

Traditional hearth Cooking was done in mud pots over an open fire (see pic left). Three stones placed at three corners supported the pot above the fire. In these days, open fires have been replaced by "smokeless" wood-burners which draw the smoke away through pipes.

Burning firewood is still practised in rural areas, even where gas and electricity are available. In a typical rural household, there would ba a plentiful supply of combustible materials - dry branches and twigs, dry leaves and so on. It would be wasteful to let these rot and use more modern (and far more expensive) fuel.

In practice, few Kerala households use even one of these traditional methods now. At best, there might be a smokeless wood-burner. Mostly however, it is electric grinders, gas or electric stoves and stainless steel utensils that you would find in today's kitchen.