01 Mar2014

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Finally, a Mexican natural stone molcajete (mortar and pestle)! I have been eyeing these for years on trips abroad, but always felt they were too heavy to bring back in luggage, and for some reason, I could never find one I wanted when we were filling up balikbayan boxes with stuff to ship home. I spotted a snazzy Jamie Oliver one at True Value a couple of weeks ago, but it was a whopping PHP2,400+ and though that was less than half the price of a fabulous white but rough marble version from an Italian kitchen supplies store in Manila (PHP5,000+), I was thrilled instead to find this Mexican version at S&R today for PHP899 or so. It’ll probably go on sale in a couple of weeks for their March extravaganza, but they only had a few dozen on display and I have no intention of fighting it out on sale day to save a couple of hundred pesos, so I bought two molcajetes today.

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Besides its handsome looks, the biggest advantage of this mortar and pestle is the rough finish and grinding capability of the natural stone. We have several romblon marble mortars and pestles but they are rather smooth, and often small, so you can’t really smash or pulverize everything you would like to. I fret that I may get a bit of lava or stone in my dental work, but the instructions make it clear you need to “season” it by grinding up rice, rock salt, etc. for a few days before you use it for real food. And never wash it with soap or detergent.

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Mortar refers to the bowl like vessel, and the pestle is the thing you pound ingredients with, just in case you get confused like I do. Now I await the height of avocado season for some homemade guacamole!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Rob says:

    My late mother used to have a stone mortar & pestle which she used for everything: smashing garlic, cracking peppercorns, bruising ginger, grinding peanuts & toasted rice for kare-kare, crushing chicharrón, pounding shrimp heads for palabok, cracking munggo for ginataan, shelling walnuts (!), etc. Yes, very old school! You are correct about the seasoning, some people also recommend seasoning with soaked rice toward the end, if the rice is still gray you haven’t removed the outer layer of rock, the rice should be white.

    BTW, as you mentioned molcajete refers to the bowl [Standard Spanish: mortero or almirez], the pestle is known in Mexico as the tejolote [Standard Spanish: mano or pilón].

    Mar 2, 2014 | 12:49 am

     
  2. marilen says:

    That is a beauty!!! Thank you too for all the tips on how to ‘season’. Incidentally, I just discarded, for same reasons you mentioned, the ceramic mortar and pestle purchased on recent trip to Manila – it was just too smooth.

    Mar 2, 2014 | 7:08 am

     
  3. Betchay says:

    I remember when I was small my lola had one of this and I was kinda turned off as it absorbed the flavors and odors of anything you pound on it. I don’t like that it absorbed the fishy smell when shrimp heads/skin were pounded on it. So I thought marble mortar and pestle were more ok and sturdy thus when I saw this one at SnR I passed it off but now that you featured it and you said you bought 2 does it mean you will use one for fishy things and the other for spices only? Maybe I should take a second look and buy 2 like you did! :) feeling nostalgic!

    Mar 2, 2014 | 8:21 am

     
  4. Marketman says:

    Betchay, yes, ideally I think you need to separate out broad uses if possible. Grinding spices, chills, etc. in one molcajete while using say a second one for things like shrimp heads, etc. I think the latter is uniquely pinoy or Asian and I doubt Mexicans have different molcajetes for different dishes… Also Asian flavors vs. European ones would clash. I would love to make a proper pesto in one of these, but if there is a whiff of shrimp heads, that would be a deal-breaker I think. For the same reason, I mark our palayoks or clay pots in the house… one mostly for vinegar based dishes like paksiw, etc. And another palayok for pinakbet, etc. as the flavors do linger in the natural pottery.

    Mar 2, 2014 | 8:42 am

     
  5. Susie says:

    I have a thing for mortars and pestles…buy one whenever I can. My favorite one is raw granite from Chiang Mai. I use one for spices, one for making sauces, one for fishy things. A friend gave me one from Spain he used just for romesco and aioli. I’ve always wanted a molcajete..will check our local S&R!

    Mar 2, 2014 | 2:33 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    Susie, let me know if you want me to bring you one the next time I go to Cebu… can just throw it in luggage…

    Mar 2, 2014 | 3:03 pm

     
  7. Dreaming! says:

    Something what we have. Use it a lot.

    Mar 2, 2014 | 6:57 pm

     
  8. Susie says:

    Thanks MM..will let you know!

    Mar 2, 2014 | 9:10 pm

     
  9. Betchay says:

    Thanks MM! Very good tips!

    Mar 3, 2014 | 7:24 am

     
  10. Clarissa says:

    I’ve seen this and come back for it but had second thoughts! Kasi it’s so dirty and rough :s But I wanna check it out again :)

    Mar 3, 2014 | 8:50 am

     
  11. Editha says:

    I’ve been looking for one dito sa US and finally decided to buy a marble grinder made in China. I was concerned about the rough finish of stone grinder baka kako may “lead”. I did not know I have to season it. Wanted to use it for making “galapong”. After reading this post, i’m now wanting a stone grinder, which was my original choice…uggghhh…i’ll just have two grinders. thanks for the post.

    Mar 4, 2014 | 1:02 am

     
  12. Meg says:

    I use this for making my favorite thai recipe like papaya salad.

    Mar 4, 2014 | 2:42 am

     
  13. Christina Gosteli says:

    My husband (Thai) is looking for a deep mortar & pestle here. It’s for Thai curry paste & needs to be at least 6 inches deep, deeper would be better. We got one at St.James bazaar last year but it broke already. Does anyone know where I can have one made? Please text me 09177392367. Thanks!!

    Mar 6, 2014 | 1:29 am

     
  14. Babot says:

    Recently took one home from S&R after years of hunting high and low for a decent one. Can’t wait to use it!

    Mar 14, 2014 | 7:23 pm

     

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