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
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 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)
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 also made with this equipment. When grinding with ammi and kulavi, spices, 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. But in modern days this has been replaced with food processor.
Aatu Kallu (ஆட்டு கல்லு)
There is another kind of grinding stone which is used to make dosa batter, idly batter, Vadai batter etc. In Tamil this is called “aatu kallu” Here the 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. 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.
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 dried a little bit in the sun. While the rice is damp, it’s placed in the “ural” and pound using the “ulakkai”. 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 kal” 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 base of this equipment and using a top slate it’s turned round and round and the husk of whole beans would separate and the split beans would be collected.
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
Beetle nut (பாக்கு) which is the common name of a seed from a palm tree called Kamuhu (கமுக மரம்). 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.