Posted on

Sri Lankan Cuisine – Kitchenware Guide

Clay pot (“hattiya” හට්ටිය):

Sri Lankan cookery uses a number of un-glazed, environmentally friendly clay cooking pots all of them collectively referred to as “hatti-mutti” හට්ටි මුට්ටි in Sinhalese (“hattiya” හට්ටිය  is the singular term referring to just one clay pot). These 100% natural, organic, un-glazed, environmentally friendly clay pots are must-have cooking vessels for authentic Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) cuisine. These earthen pots are believed to contribute a distinctively appetizing flavor and aroma to the food that is cooked in it and modern-day cooking utensils such as stainless steel pots and non-stick pans would simply not produce the same outcome. It is also believed among traditional Sri Lankans that these earthen pots help absorb unwholesome elements in the food.

Prior to usage, the earthen pots are first seasoned by boiling water and grated coconut refuse over a medium flame.

Coconut shell spoon ("Pol Katu Handa" පොල් කටු හැන්ද):

Coconut trees are a ubiquitous sight in Sri Lanka, and since ancient times, every part of the tree from the trunk, to the leaves, the white coconut flesh, the coconut shells and coconut flowers were all put to good use. Playing such an integral role in daily life of an average Sri Lankan, the venerable coconut tree earned the moniker “kapruka” කප් රුක which is meant to reflect the tree's timeless value. Among the many ways coconut shells were used in Sri Lanka, one was to craft spoons, usually by hand, with which they would be used as an accessory for cooking. The empty coconut shells would be cleaned and attached to sticks, forming a rudimentary yet highly functional spoon known as a “pol katu handa” පොල් කටු හැන්ද  in Sinhalese (“pol” පොල් = “coconut”, “katu” කටු = “shell”, “handa” හැන්ද = “spoon”).

These are 100% natural, organic, un-glazed and environmentally friendly.

A traditional Sri Lankan coconut shell spoon. Crafted with 100% natural materials, this environmentally-friendly kitchen utensil has been used for generations in Sri Lanka.
Click here to view a larger image of a traditional Sri Lankan coconut shell spoon. 

Firewood stove ("Dhara Lipa" දර ලිප):

Known as the "dhara lipa" in Sinhalese ("dhara" = "wood" and "lipa" = "stove"), a wood-fired stove coupled with a traditional Sri Lankan unglazed clay pot yields the best of flavors and aromas that Sri Lankan (particularly Sinhalese) cuisine has to offer. Smoking wood and a seasoned, organic clay pot produces an unparalleled and appetizingly earthy aroma and flavor that modern-day gas-fired / electric stoves and metal-based cooking vessels simply cannot match.

Coconut Grater ("Hiramanaya" හිරමනය):

Coconut is one of the most important ingredients in Sri Lankan cuisine and they would traditionally be grated using a kitchen tool known as a “hiramanaya” හිරමනය. Coupled with lots of elbow grease, an experienced set of hands could grate a single coconut in about a few minutes.

Grinding Stone ("Miris Gala" මිරිස් ගල):

The "miris gala" මිරිස් ගල (which literally means "chili stone", "miris" මිරිස් = "chili, "gala" ගල = "stone") was an important kitchen tool in ancient Sri Lanka and remains so today in rural villages and towns. Similar to the “sil-batta” in India and the “batu-giling” in Malaysia, the Sri Lankan "miris gala" is comprised of two units; a rectangular slab of granite (a little more than a foot in length, about 1 foot in width and about 3-4 inches in height) and a cylindrical granite "roller" about the same width as the rectangle granite slab.

The "roller" sits over the rectangular slab and using hands, substantial muscle, elbow grease, time, and patience, this roller is rolled back and forth over the ingredients which have been placed on the rectangular slab.

Often used to grind spices and chili pastes, the "miris gala" is generally believed to yield better results nutrition-wise and taste-wise compared to modern-day food processors and grinding equipment which destroy delicate nutrients and flavors in the food as a result of the heat and sheer speed at which the food is processed.

Pestle And Mortar ("Vangediya" And "Mole-Gaha"):

The "vangediya" and "mole-gaha" which is basically a super-sized pestle and mortar, was an essential tool in the ancient kitchens of Sri Lanka. The "vangediya" is the mortar, ranging from about 1-2 feet in height and about 1 foot in diameter, while the "mole-gaha" is the pestle, about 4-5 feet in height and 3-4 inches in diameter. The "vangediya" is usually carved out of wood from trees with a hard core, such as Jack tree, Teak or Nadun. The "mole-gaha" or the pestle, is also made out of wood, though it does not have be to be as hard as that used for the "vangediya". Wood from the ubiquitous coconut tree or kithul tree, which are generally not hard enough to make a "vangediya", are common choices to make the "mole-gaha".

These super-sized pestle and mortars were used by the Sri Lankan ladies for a variety of purposes such as to pulverize rice into rice flour for whipping up local treats such as “konda kevum” and “aggala”. The vangediay and mole gaha is also used to pound rice and greens such as gorukola to prepare one of Sri Lanka’s most popular breakfast congees - “kola kenda” (which means “green porridge” in Sinhalese, “kola” = “green”, “kenda” = “porridge”).


Finger Millet Quern ("Kurakkan Gala" කුරක්කන් ගල):

This is a traditional quern for grinding finger millet grains (“kurakkan”) into kurakkan flour which would be used to prepare a variety of traditional delicacies such as kurakkan porridge, kurakkan roti, halapa etc.


Earthen water pitcher (“gurulethuwa” ගුරුලෙතුව):

The “gurulethuwa” ගුරුලෙතුව as it is known in Sinhalese, is a traditional Sri Lankan water cooler. Crafted out of clay, these natural water jugs are porous allowing the heat to escape while allowing the external air to cool the water contained within the container. It is also believed that any traces of unwholesome elements in the water are absorbed by the clay, rendering a purer, healthier and more refreshing water.

Similar to the earthen clay pots used in daily cooking, the “gurulethuwa” is usually seasoned first prior to using.

A traditional Sri Lanka water pitcher for sale at a farmers' market in Sri Lanka.
A traditional Sri Lankan clay/earthen water pitcher, pictured here for sale at a farmers' market in Sri Lanka, has been used for generations to keep water naturally cooled and refreshing.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *