The commercial kitchens of today operate mostly with stainless steel machinery for its ability to assist in productivity with a touch of a button. What about equipment used to prepare traditional foods that are sold in restaurants or food kiosks today? Mostly attributed to its food cultures, here are some tools of the trade that are more often seen at home or used by smaller scale businesses.
The most widely used cooking vessel in Arabic countries, the tajine pot is typically made of natural clay with or without design. It consists of a flat and circular base unit with low level sides and a dome/cone-shaped cover that fits within the base during cooking to return all condensation to the bottom. Dishes cooked in this pot are simply called ‘tajine’ and food is usually cooked over hot charcoal although some modern households may use a stove top. While most tajine pots are meant to withstand heat, some are intended to be only decorative serving dishes.
The quickest way to get the most out of a coconut’s flesh; the knob in the centre is designed with short spikes. As the machine is turned on, the knob rotates to shave the flesh into a fine texture. Grated coconut is then squeezed to obtain the creamy milk or can be dry fried and used as a condiment on salads or in certain thick curries like the Malay community’s delicacy called ‘rendang’.
From land of smiles (Thailand) to the land of rising sun; Japan has its variation of a rice flour snack called Takoyaki. Using a similar equipment; with the exception of being rectangle instead of circular, takoyaki comprises a wheat flour batter filled with minced octopus and cooked till crispy. It is then topped with a sauce and shavings of dried bonito (fish flakes).
KANOM KROK PAN
This coconut pudding is a street snack unique to Thailand prepared with rice flour and coconut milk. Depending on the recipe; it can be a sweet or savoury one and is cooked in this cast iron pan with deep hollows to obtain its round shape.
SUGARCANE JUICE EXTRACTOR
The sugarcane plant thrives in the Asian region and some parts of South America like Latin America and Brazil, providing a cool drink for a hot day. Aside from the commercially bottled juice, many street vendors peddle this treat as a juice extractor is inexpensive. Peeled sugarcane is simply passed through the presser, either machine-powered or hand-cranked and juice is extracted. The simple drink has various fancies such as a squeeze of lime (Colombia, Cuba), pineapple (Brazil), passionfruit or ginger (India, Zanzibar) even black salt or mint in Pakistan.
ICE SHAVING MACHINE
Available in manual or automatic versions, the ice shaving machine produces ice crystals that are rougher in texture. This machine is ubiquitous in Southeast Asian countries where versions of shaved ice desserts like Malaysia’s ‘ice kacang’, Phillipines’ ‘halo-halo’, or Thailand’s ‘nam kang sai’ are enjoyed.
DRIED SQUID ROLLER
Another item you’ll find in Thailand, dried squid is first put through a hand-cranked presser numerous times to tenderise it. The flattened piece of squid is then grilled atop a small charcoal stove and served with a peanutchilli dip. A snack to enjoy while walking through the streets; if you enjoy chewy textures.
Soybean consumption is huge in Asian countries, particularly in places like China and Japan. The traditional stone grinder still exists where soybeans are ground by manually turning the handle to slowly extract the liquid from the beans to be made into smooth beancurd.
Muruku is a group of deep fried Indian savoury snacks made from flour and a variety of spices. The muruku batter is placed into the chamber and the handle is turned to push the batter through the holes, giving shape to the snack, directly into the hot oil.
How many of these unique equipment have you come across? For many small business owners, these are their tools of the trade and in most parts of the world, its people take pride in its local delicacies which play an important role in shaping the country’s identity.
Additional images from Flickr.com attributed to:
1. Bora Bora Foods
3. Helen ST