January 2017


The Forgotten Sweethearts of the Traditional Kitchen
January 2017




Kulla (කුල්ල)

Customarily, to provide Sri Lankan meals with their usual intricacy of ingredients - most of which have to be thoroughly prepared - involves the use of a core group of kitchen utensils, some simple, some of unusual appearance yet smart design. What's more, those who prepared food not only needed culinary flair but also vital manual skill to make best possible use of the utensils. Strength and stamina are required, as all are labour-intensive.


Word: Richard Boyle | Photography: Rasika Surasena


Kulla (කුල්ල)

The kulla was once a primary kitchen utensil that was usually the first to be used in the process of cooking. "There was the winnower called the kulla to separate the chaff from the rice," writes Sybil Wettasinghe in Child in Me (1996). The kulla is a shallow basket, open at one end but the rest with an enclosing lip, made of artistically woven rattan, which, is employed to winnow rice; to separate the rice from the freshly harvested husks, known as vee. The method employed is to toss the rice in the air from the kulla so the chaff is dispersed, while the rice falls back into the enclosed part of the basket.


Nambiliya (නෑඹිලිය)

A bowl-shaped utensil, traditionally made from terracotta, used for washing rice. It has a functional design with a pattern of sweeping grooves descending to the bottom - where decorative elements are found - to assist in trapping stones and other unwanted particles prior to cooking the rice. The washing method - similar to that of panning for gold - is to tilt the nambiliya, then swirl the contents to catch the stones in the grooves, and gradually empty the cleaned rice and water into the cooking pot.


Hiramane (හිරමනය)

This curious-looking utensil consists of a low, rectangular wooden platform, which is supported by two strips. From one edge there is a metal extrusion, shaped rather like a swan's neck, at the end of which is a blade, a small circular serrated disc. It's a coconut scraper. One sits astride the platform and inserts a dehusked half-coconut. Then with dexterous movement of the hands the flesh is finely grated and falls into a bowl, ready to be squeezed for its milk, used in curries or sambol.


Kurahan Gala (කුරහන් ගල)

A grinding stone with a circular base surmounted by a slab of the same size but with two protrusions, one to hold a stick of kitul wood to turn the stone to enable grinding, the other to provide stable grinding. The kurahan gala is designed to grind kurakkan, a popular grain grown in Sri Lanka's dry zone. The grain is placed in a hole in the upper stone, descends between the stones, is crushed, and then released from the gap between the grinding stones.


Miris Gala (මිරිස් ගල)

One of the oldest kitchen utensils in Sri Lanka, which consists of a heavy rectangular granite slab and rolling pin, used to crush the ingredients for different sambols (spicy dishes of chillie and onions) especially lunu miris ("chillie and salt"). This is an accompaniment essential to kiribath ("milk rice"). All the ingredients for lunu miris - chillies, onions, Maldive fish, and lime juice, even salt, are ground into a fine paste. The miris gala is also used to grind spices, both wet and dry, for traditional Sri Lankan cooking.


Gal Vangediya (ගල් වංගෙඩිය)

Is a granite chalice-shaped mortar of varying size, in which, generally, soaked rice is pounded to make hal piti ("rice flour"). Pounding is accomplished with a pestle, a lengthy, uniform pole called molgaha, made from the kitul palm tree. During the Aluth Avurudda (New Year) in April, the gal vangediya play a significant role in the pre-paration of special fare. This is achieved by village women, with up to four molgaha per gal vangediya, creating a rhythm so that each pestle lands in sequence.


Lee Vangediya (ලී වංගෙඩිය)

This is a wooden ("lee") van gediya, or mortar, traditionally made from the daang tree, with a solid base for stability as it is not made from stone. Among other applications the utensil is extensively used to produce pol sambol, an individually created uncooked condiment, usually consisting of grated coconut, onion, chillies, and lime, these ingredients being lightly pounded with the molgaha (pestle) as similarly used with the gal vangediya.

 

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    Nambiliya (නෑඹිලිය)

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    Hiramane (හිරමනය)

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    Kurahan Gala (කුරහන් ගල)

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    Miris Gala (මිරිස් ගල)

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    Gal Vangediya (ගල් වංගෙඩිය)

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    Lee Vangediya (ලී වංගෙඩිය)

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