Mortars and pestles. Maybe the first thing that comes to your mind is, “now there’s a tool no one needs anymore.” Why should you work your elbows off to do the same thing, only slower when we have a blender that does the job?
Stop right there!
Humans have been using mortar and pestle since prehistory. It’s an essential tool for crushing and grinding food into granules, powder, or paste. Though food processors and blenders seem to have replaced mortars and pestles since the ’70s, many believe that they do the same thing… it’s hardly the case.
The benefits of mortars and pestles
1. More aroma and flavorBy crushing and grinding, the mortar and pestle do a beautiful job in rupturing the food and bringing out the fresh, pungent aroma. Blenders chop and shred, making the food much smaller, but the cells that release the scent in the small pieces actually remain unruptured.
2. Lasting colors on your foodGrinding in a mortar keeps the vibrant colors of your food for a longer time while blenders destroy the cellular structure of the food, exposing it to a lot of air and oxidation.
3. Total control over the texture
While it’s much easier to get your food smooth and consistent with a blender, you have much more control over the texture with a mortar. Manual labor enables you to be precise and play around with the consistency you look for.
4. Low-maintenance, easy to clean
Wash it. Dry it. Done. No need to take apart pieces and clean them separately like you do a blender.
5. It brings you mindful cooking
You simply feel more connected to the food you make. Using your muscles and engaging in crushing the ingredients goes a long way than just pressing a button. You use your eyes to look at the basil in the mortar, listen to the sound of the grinding, smell its sweet aroma as you crush the leaves, touch the pestle and feel the food through it. It’s definitely more work, but it’s also meditative when you use all these senses on the food. Taste it, and you just satisfied all your senses!
Choosing a mortar and pestle
SizeGenerally, a 6-inch mortar can do many things. But if you are making a small amount of spice or pureed garlic for your meal, all you may need is a small one.
A round bowl is easier to use your pestle to grind the food.
InsideMake sure the surface is coarse inside the mortar. A glossy interior is pretty but not very functional in grinding food.
PestleIt’s important that the pestle is large and long enough to the size of your mortar. A pestle too skiny or short makes it impossible to catch the ingredients and push them against the mortar.
Different culture, different mortar
We’ve used it since the Stone Age, which means different cultures have different types of mortars and pestles. Take Suribachi and Surikogi, for example.
Suribachi is a ceramic mortar used in Japan, and Surikogi is a pestle usually made with wood. Suribachi is unique because it has ridged lines inside, which makes it an excellent grinder for seeds and nuts. Some of the common ingredients used in Japan for Suribachi are sesame seeds and grated yam. At Motsutou, we make pesto with it, and it works just as great. On top of it, we can grade garlic and ginger in it, too!
The mortar and pestle have evolved from one culture to another to fit the needs of each culinary, and there are an unlimited number of ways you can use it. We hope you give this simple yet versatile kitchen tool a try and see how it can enrich your cooking life!