Traditional Equipments

In Jaffna and other parts of Sri Lanka traditional kitchen equipments are still in existence.  In some villages people still use these equipments on a day to day basis.  Other than these equipments the fire stove which is used to cook food is called “aduppu” which is made out of clay.  Normally fire wood (mango wood, Neem (azadiracta indica) etc) is collected from the backyard us used.  Dried coconut leaves are also used make fire.  Some people use coconut leaves especially when boiling water.  The smoke released when burning coconut leaves gives a smoky flavor/smell to the water when drunk.  Normally Clay pots and wooden spoons are used to cook food on aduppu.  But now these have been replaced with saucepans and other metal vessels and electric and gas stove.

Some of the traditional equipments still in existence are follows:

Idiyappam making equipment

(இடியப்ப உரல்)


Idiyappam is a very important food that’s consumed for break-fast and dinner.  Traditionally Idiyappam is made with an equipment called “Idiyappa ural”.   The idiyappa ural is made out of wood and the tray where the Idiyappam is steamed is normally made out of palmyrah tree leaves or coconut tree leaves.   The idiyappa ural has two parts  as shown in the picture below.  The dough is placed into the mould and then pressed by the upper part by using both hands.

When pressed with both hands in a rotating motion, the Idiyappam which looks like noodle comes out through the bottom of the idiyappa ural that is collected on the idiyappam making tray (இடியப்ப தட்டு).



Image below shows an idiyappam on an idiyappam making tray.


Now these traditional idiyappam making mould has been replaced with stainless steel ones and the trays are replaced with plastic ones.  Following is a modern idiyappam making equipment


Pittu making equipment

Pittu is another important food consumed for break-fast and dinner.  Traditionally Pittu is made in an equipment called “Neethu peddi” (நீத்து பெட்டி) which is made out of Palmyrah tree leaves or coconut tree leaves.  An image of pittu making equipment is shown below.



Pittu mixture is placed in this equipment and placed over a small mouthed pot with boiling water ( this equipment will go into the pot about one-third) and covered with a lid and steamed until Pittu is done.

Now this traditional pittu making equipment is replaced with stainless steel ones.  Following is a modern pittu making equipment which is called puttu kulal (புட்டு குழல்)


kulalpittupicture of pittu made from the above equipment which is called “kulal pittu”

Ammi and Kulavi (அம்மி குழவி)



This oblong grinding stone (Tamil name “ammi”) and the roller (Tamil name “kulavi”) which looks like a rolling pin are made out of slate.  In the traditional Tamil cooking dried ingredients such as coriander, cumin, and black pepper are placed on the heavy stone and pulverized with the roller.  The slate stone has carved ridges to hold the ingredients in place.  Traditionally coconut sambol, chutneys, curry pastes are all made with this equipment.  When grinding with ammi and kulavi, spices or coconut are placed on the base stone and the top roller (kulavi) is moved back and forth.  When using this apparatus, very less water is used.  Usually in older days ammi is placed on the floor and a person will sit in front of it and move the roller back and forth to grind.  Later on this equipment were placed on concrete slabs built such a person can stand and do the work.  In modern days this has been replaced with food processor and dry grinder.

Aatu Kallu (ஆட்டு கல்லு)



There is another kind of grinding stone which is used to make batter such as dosa batter, idly batter, Vadai batter etc.  In Tamil this is called “aatu kallu” In this equipment, middle of the base stone is cup shaped where lentils are placed with water and ground with the roller.  The roller is moved in a circular manner with one hand.  When grinding this way, the lentil and water would normally come outside the cup onto the base stone.  So the person who grinding will frequently push the lentil and water into the cup with one hand while rotating the roller with the other hand until the consistency of the batter is reached.  Using this apparatus to grind lentils does take a lot of time.  Normally 2 cups of lentils will take about 20 minutes or so to make into a batter.  This equipment is always placed on the ground and the person will sit in front of the equipment on a very small board called “palakai kattai”.

Rice pounding equipment (Ural & Ulakkai)

Traditionally rice is pound with this equipment to make rice flour.  This equipment is very similar to mortar and pezzle but much bigger than mortar and pezzle.  In Tamil the mortar like equipment is called “ural” and the pezzle like equipment is called “ulakkai”.  Normally “urall” is about 3 feet tall and the “ulakkai” would be about 4 – 4.5 feet tall.  Traditionally rice is washed and then let dry a little bit in the sun.  While the rice is damp, it’s placed in the “ural” and pound using the “ulakkai”.  A person will stand and use the ulakai to pound the rice. Then the pound rice is placed in a sifter and sifted to get the flour.  When sifting the rice the particles which are collected in the sifter would be put into the “ural” again and pound to make the rice flour.  This equipment is now replaced with electric equipments.  The pound rice flour is then roasted on fire to remove any dampness and stored in air tight containers.

Separating the lentil from the whole beans (Thirukai kallu)



I am not so sure the name of the equipment used for this process.  I have heard this is called “thirukai kallu” and now a days this is very rare and I haven’t seen it.  This equipment is made out of slate and very heavy.  Normally whole beans such as whole mung beans, whole urad dhal etc would be put in the upper cup area on the top slate and it’s turned round and round with the handle.  In this process the husk of whole beans would separate and the split beans would be collected.

Coconut scraper

Traditionally coconut is scraped using and equipment called “thiruvalai”.  The traditional thiruvalai is a wooden long rectangular board with small legs.  On one of the elongated side of the board, a mettal or wooden handle is attached and a blade is attached to that handle.  This equipment is placed on the floor and a person will sit on the board and scrapes the coconut (see picture below).


Below is a side view of the traditional coconut scraper:


Below is the enlarged view of the traditional coconut scraper blade:


Later on this equipment is replaced with a portable small thiruvalai.  Here the equipment is placed on a table and the person stands and scrapes the coconut.  Blade is inserted into the coconut half and the handle is rotated.  Scraped coconut is collected in a bowl which is placed right below the blade.  The equipment can be attached to the table with a screw or now a days with air sucking mechanism.  It’s easily removable for storage.

Following are pictures of portable thiruvalai



Dosa and chapthi griddle

This is either made of iron.  Traditionally this griddle is placed on the stove top or fire stove and dosas and chapathis are cooked.

Beetle nut cutter – Paakku Vetti

(பாக்கு வெட்டி)


Beetle nut (பாக்கு) which is the common name of a seed from a palm tree called Kamuhu (கமுக மரம்).  In English, this tree is called “Areca nut.  You can read more about in the wikipedia –  The name “beetle” is derived from “beetle” leaves which is used to wrap these seeds and chewed.  In English these seeds are called “Areca nut”.  When the fruit is fresh, the nut/seed inside is soft and can be cut with a knife.  But as it dries, the fruit inside hardens to a wood-like consistency. At this stage, the nut can only be sliced using a special knife called paakku vetti.

Below is a picture of the beetle nut tree


Below is the expanded view of the fruits on the tree:



The dried nut is placed in-between the levers of the cutter and sliced into thin slices by moving the thin lever (see below image).


These sliced nuts are chewed wrapped in beetle leaves.  Some times in older times (say my grand mother or great grand mother), people would add a little pieces of dried tobacco and these nuts and wrap and chew them.  I have also seen elderly people adding a little bit of chalk (calcium carbonate – called chunnamu in tamil) while chewing this – I am not kidding here.  These are normally chewed by adults and elderly people.  Kids are not allowed to eat this back at home.

For auspicious events like weddings, samathya sadangu and any other events beetle nuts are served to visitors who attends the event.  In older times every house will have a tray full of these slivered beetle nuts.  These are given when people visit friends and relatives as well.


Aduppu (Fire-Place)

In older days food is cooked in aduppu that is now replaced with the modern gas and electric stove/cooker.  In ancient days the aduppu is made out of clay.  It is made such there will be an area in the middle where fire is lighted.  The aduppu is in an oval shape with three notches (one on left, another on right and the other in the back) where a cooking pan rests.  Since aduppu is made out of clay, normally clay pots were used since any other metal pans will break the clay.  The aduppu has to be patched frequently with clay since it has a tendency to break off.  Later on the aduppu was made out of stone so that aluminum and copper pans can be used to cook food.

89 thoughts on “Traditional Equipments

  1. oh! Great story!It makes me imagine all sorts of things about daily life in Sri Lanka!….maybe in the old days…?

      1. How to get Neethu peddi in USA? What did the bottom steamer look like to hold the basket? Was the Pittu wrapped in a cotton cloth then put into the basket?
        Where do you get quality tamil grocery from in USA?

      2. USA is so big. So it depends on which state of USA you are asking.
        I normally use a pot with small mouth where the neethu peddi will go about half way into the pot. So when you add water to the pot, add such it should not touch the neethu pedi.
        I never wrap pitta in a cloth. Just put the crumbled pittu into the neethu pedi and steam.

      3. Do you cover it? How to get the palm basket? I’m in Chicago but places here are not that good. I can call any store you suggest to get things mailed to me.


      4. There must be places which I am not aware of. But there is one in Staten Island – New York but I am not sure whether they sell or not. But Canada has plenty of Sri Lankan stores where you can get anything from Sri Lanka/Jaffna

      5. If you suggest a good shop anywhere I’m willing to call them and have them mail.

        How to get steaming basket sent to me?

        You don’t cover it with a lid as it steams?

      6. I will find the name of the store. There is a store in New York – Staten Island (a Sri Lankan store which is owned by a sinhalese person. So hope they also use like us. I will get the store name and post it here.

        Yes, you have to cover the mouth of the neethu pedi with a lid. Like I use a kettle lid which is enough to cover the rim of the neethu pedi.

      7. Can you suggest specific store names in Canada. Or the stores you get your things from? How did you get your basket?
        It would help if you had pictures or video of how you make the Pittu.

      8. Well, I have not been to Canada for a while. I get mine from Sri Lanka when ever I go there. So when I go I get a couple which lasts until I visit the next time. I can post pictures of the method. I have to look into posting videos within word press for my account.

        I believe the Sri Lankan store in Staten Island – New York is called “Lanka Grocery”. You can check their phone number and call and see whether they sell this.

      9. “So when I go I get a couple which lasts until I visit the next time. ”

        Oh, so how long it lasts for until you throw it out? How do you know it needs replacement? ….get me one too… 🙂

      10. It depends how much you use it. So for me it may last for about 6 months. After that it start breaking apart and pieces of the neethu pedi leaves coming out (you know neethu pedi is made out of Palmerah tree or coconut tre leaf). So thats when I throw out.
        Sure 🙂

      11. Wouldn’t it come like a set, basket plus bottom steamer that it perfectly fits into? Please provide your direct email in this blog under about….

        Maybe there are speciality shops in India or Sri Lanka you can recommend that can mail over here….I need authentic granite mortar and pestle too…The one I I ordered from here has some strange varnish on it and is all scratched up and dented….not pleased.

      12. I think only the “kulal pittu” making parts come as a set like the kulal, pot, and lid. Not sure about the neethu pedi whether it comes as a set. I did buy a mortar and pestle that is granite or marble which chipped off. One of my aunt had it made out of solid iron. But I have never seen one now a days. The one I use now is of wood which I got from Sri Lanka about 5 or 6 years ago whichis still good. Mine is from the tree “poovarasa maram”.

      13. Many people commenting on your blog here chelvi don’t seem genuine but are some advertisers….please try to filter such people out…..

      14. Thanks for pointing out. I think most of the spams were a while back and after that I did set the filters. So recently I did not see any spam kind of comments. Thanks again since that made me go back and look at the older comments and delete those.

      15. I would like to see pictures of the wood one. Would like one of those too 🙂 They use that wood to make instruments. But I never knew wood was used for mortar pestle. I always thought granite was used. I would assume it would break or react with the spices. And wouldn’t iron rust? I have seen iron before though. Please directly email me in future if you find good sources to get mortar pestle…we need a part two to this cooking equipment post, seems there is lots more items out there to be discovered…

        Sure. But there are still more unwanted comments at this blog I think you should delete….

  2. Hi ! Am seeking for idiyapam making ural for a business purposes .
    Kindly advise me on the pricings and shipments asap.

    AM from malaysia .

    thanks .Aruna

    1. Hi Aruna,

      You can buy them in the Indian Stores. But I am not sure about Malasian stores etc. I live in US. So when I came from Sri Lanka, I got one from my mother. The traditional version is made out of wood. But the modern ones (which are sold in most Indian stores) are made out of stainless steel which is also easy to use. Check the pictures under the equipments section of this site:
      I am not sure about the prices since I bought them about 7 years ago. But the stainless steel one I have is around $19.99 at that time.

  3. First of all, this  is a good site you have here. I stumbled upon your web site while doing a search on google. Fantastic blog post, I will probably bookmark it for future

  4. Hello

    What a wonderful article on traditional kitchen equipment!! Love the efforts you have taken to get all the details in. I would love to use your article for my website and add more to it. I will of course give you the proper credit and a link back to your website.
    Please let me know

  5. Rather great posting. I actually just became aware of your blog page and wanted to state that I’ve truly enjoyed analyzing your blog and articles. Nonetheless I’ll be subscribing your feed and I hope to browse your blog again.

  6. I must say, youve got 1 of the very best blogs Ive noticed in a long time. What I wouldnt give to be able to generate a blog thats as fascinating as this. I guess Ill just have to keep reading yours and hope that 1 day I can write on a topic with as considerably understanding as youve got on this one!

  7. Dear Sir/Madam
    i want to buy a best iddiappa ural
    can u please advise where i can buy
    i am in ireland

    1. I live in the United States. So I am not so sure about Ireland. But you can buy the stainless steel version of the idiyappa ural in any Indian or Sri Lankan stores. But I have not seen the traditional one any where other than Sri Lanka. Also there was a post under Traditional Kitchen Equipments in my blog where some one is selling Idiyappa ural. It looks nice buy very expensive. Please check out at and the name of the poster is Oritha.

      Hope this helps!

      1. do you know which specific varieties of red unpolished rice were boiled and eaten with a meal on a daily basis?
        samba, pachchaperumal etc.?

        i was wondering if they use to not boil the rice, but steam it in a basket like they do in thailand?

  8. how was unpolished red rice like a samba rice traditionally cooked? pittu is made from ground red rice powder, but was was red rice ever eaten whole and how was it traditionally cooked? please personally email me the answer if you know i don’t check back to this site often.

    1. Well, traditionaly in Sri Lanka the way my mother cook is: you first boil water in a pot. Once the water is boiling, add washed rice to the pot and cook on medium flame. You can cover the pot. But that makes foam forming at the top and over flow. So normally if I have to cook in the traditional way, I cook uncovered.

      Also if you add a lot of water, you have to make sure you check out whether the rice is cooked or not. Once its cooked immediately drain the water.

      When it comes to red rice there are 2 types: one is called “patchai arici” (this is quite red and long thin rice) which is used to make red rice flour. The other one (which is a lighter version and more rounded) is used to cook thr rice.

      1. do you soak the rice and for how long prior to cooking?
        then do you use soaking water for cooking?
        i too cook it uncovered, it prevents spill overs….

  9. why the rice is ground up for puttu, do they ever use whole grain rice unground? i can never understand why they grind the rice or ragi, i always get lumps.

    how do they cook whole unground unpolished samba rice do they steam it whole using the same puttu makers as well?

    1. I think you are adding too much water. For pittu, of course you have to use the flour. You can buy the flour readily in the store. If you grind the rice at home, make sure its ground into a fine powder and dry. Then you can add hot water to make the pittu

  10. in thailand i have seen them steaming the red rice in a basket just like our pittu basket. so i wondered if the thai people are doing this why not us, we use the same basket? i have also seen them steam the whole grain rice in a bamboo just like our pittu bamboo, so i wonder why we don’t do that, we grind instead.

    do you know of the specific rice variety names that we ate on a daily basis?

    what you mentioned are generic terms, pachai arasi usually means raw rice. but it helps to know that this thin one was the pittu rice i always thought the fat one was. and you are saying fat one is for eating, that must also be our idli rice too.

    1. Well, mostly “chamba” is consumed which is also used for idlis. There is also white rice which is similar to the long thin red one, but this is white. This is also used for idlis

  11. that is how i cook my rice too, i agree with your mom, foaming comes which is why uncovered is better. phew, i’m glad i’m following your mom.

    so did you boil and eat red rice daily with meal? like once, twice, three times a day? like how many times a day you ate?

    here’s what i mean by rice varieties. i think some rices were eaten daily some not. so i’m trying to figure out which was the daily meal rice high in iron which is safe to consume.

    1. It depends on your preference. Some people eat only the white rice and others prefer the red one. I think specifically people from Jaffna, prefer the red one.
      Of course, in Sri Lanka every one eat rice at least once a day as a meal. But I know some people eat rice for lunch and dinner.

  12. Though present generation is using electric equipments, these traditional equipments are really nice and
    easy to use, clean etc.
    Brings back old memories of home kitchen back in Ceylon.

  13. I thought these stone devices were made from granite not slate. Are you sure it is from slate? Where is part 2 of this article on more to come?

  14. I go to see every day some websites and blogs to read posts, but
    this webpage offers feature based writing.

    1. Hi,

      I don’t mind you using it, please give credit to where you got the pictures from at least putting the URL of my website. Otherwise please remove those pictures since I took the effort to take those pictures and copyrighted to my website.

      Thats what I do when I use any recipes from other sites and that’s what I have seen in many other websites.


      1. Dear Chelvi,

        when I searched the pictures of Ammikkal & attukkal in Google and came across your site.
        I like them and i wanted to use them in my blog.. I have sent request (a feedback) to you also. I have mentioned the thanks note in Tamil at the end of my post also.
        I will link it now. Please check that if you have time.

        Sorry for any misunderstandings:(

    1. I live in the United States, so unfortunately I am not familiar with stores in London. But I hope there may be a lot of Sri Lankan grocery stores in London. I did a quick check in and I got some coconut scrapers. The most common that came in is “Anjali Coconut Scrapper”. Search for this and you can order this directly from Hope this helps

  15. Hi there, the information provided in this page has been very useful to me. I still have a small doubt, what is the English work for “ollakka”?

    1. Sorry for the late reply. Unfortunately I don’t the meaning of this word. I could not find on Thesaurus or Dictionary either. Sorry I could not help much

    1. No, unfortunately I don’t sell any items. You may be able to get in traditional Sri Lankan or Indian store (depending on where you live)

    1. Hi Jayashree,

      Unfortunately I am not sure where you live. I don’t sell any equipment or food etc. My site is just informative spreading our culture and food around the world. But definitely this can be purchased in India or Sri Lanka. May be in other countries where there is a lot of Sri Lankan population. Sorry I could not help you.


    1. Hi Vimal

      I am not sure what the translation for “idikal” would be. There are some Tamil words especially utensils that are not known to any one and may not have had an English word derived for it. Some examples would be “idiyappa ural”, “neethu petti” – I don’t think there is any English word for these as well.

  16. Hello, I am in Mumbai and I want to know where and how to get a small Attu Kallu.( Traditional stone grinder). Which one is the best. Kindly reply. Thanks.

    1. Hello Ambuja,
      You can get one in any part of South India. I am not familiar with the whole South India, but definitely Tamil Nadu, Chennai area. Unfortunately I don’t live there. So I cannot point any specific store.

      1. -What wood is the press used to make idiyappam usually made from and where specifically to get an authentic press that is easy to use ?

        – neem or oak (which oak?)

    1. Based on my experience, you have to use a brush and wash with warm soap water. When it come to the top where you will put any ingredients to grind, you have to wash it thoroughly and scrub a lot. The reason, when they make the ammi, they iron tools to make the top coarse. So there may be particles of iron or the stone granules. You don’t want that coming in your food.

  17. hi,
    Could you let me know where I can buy bamboo iddiappam steamers and puttu maker in california. I stay here for the past 7 years

  18. Hello, i am jelil rehman. I need AMMI KULAVI, BYERS IN SRI LANKA, HOW DO EXPORT TO SRI LANKA. PLEASE GIVE ME details &phone number

    1. This blog is not business oriented and I don’t do any business or export/import equipment. This blog is just informative. Unfortunately I don’t know these information. Sorry about this.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I think spoons made from Poovarasa maram is good. We also use spoons made out of coconut shell which can be bought in Sri Lanka. They clean and smooth a coconut shell (after scrapping the white flesh), they will put a handle and used as a serving spoon.

  19. Hi chelvi .s this is dhivya from tamil nadu..really ur blog is good to read..few days back i stopped using washing machine…now slowly shifting from mixer to ammi..i hav improved searching to get aatu kallu..i want get back to our tat i dont want worry abt spending for gym or health supplements

    1. Wow that is so good. Yeh, I know when I was a little girl we all used the ammi and attu kallu and yes, no need to do extra exercise. I wish I can go back to those as well, but not in US since they are not available here. Glad to hear you liked my blog.

      The kootu made with ammi is so delicious and makes the curries extra tasty.

    1. In Sri Lanka we call it “thirukai kallu”, in colloquial terms people say as “thiruhai kal” when talking. Meaning the pronunciation “kai” becomes “hai” when talking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s