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Jan 12, 2009 11:45 AM

Does anyone have a mortar like this?

Attached is photo of the mortar that I have. The pestle is wood. I don't use it very often but have had it for probably 20 years. All the little grooves seem to catch things more than help "mush" 'em up. I had it out the other day for garlic and fennel seed and didn't feel like it did a very good job. Do any of you have one like this? What would you recommend instead of? Thanks.

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  1. I have a 25+ year old marble mortar and pestle (rougher at the large end, finely grained at the top end), and it's really fast and easy to use and clean (though not dishwasher safe). About 5" across, 3.5" high, weighs about 2lbs. I usually wipe it out with a wet towel, but if it does take on a stronger smell, like cumin or garlic, I'll wash it with soap and let it air dry.

    It's smooth inside, but not polished, which is why I think it works so well. I've seen some which were highly polished and can't imagine they would do very well for me.

    1. It looks like what you've got is a Japanese suribachi. According to this post on another thread, it works best for grinding wet pastes:
      Probably not the best thing for breaking down fennel seed, even with the garlic to moisten the mixture.

      I use a small stoneware mortar and pestle. It seems to work best with some kosher salt thrown into the mixture to add traction. A cheap coffee grinder used as a dedicated spice grinder is also useful for getting a fine grind on spices.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Allstonian

        That's EXACTLY what it is! Thank you. I still don't remember where I got it but at least I know it's not the kind of mortar I want/need. So NOW I hae an excuse to buy myself a little something :) We've been trying to eliminate nice-to-have's versus need-to-have's but a "proper" mortar and pestle would fall into the latter category. Right??????????

        1. re: c oliver

          I've got a great mortar I got at is lab equipment surplus at great prices. Cool prices on a lot of stuff--I'm a savings hound. Also just plain wierd stuff that will make you laugh.

          1. re: fermented

            Oh goody. I'm going to pour (another) cocktail and have a look. Sounds fun and dangerous :)

            1. re: c oliver

     is one of the best places to find wierd containers and whatever else. Very bad if you're a container freak with an engineer husband...if you order from them, make a note of why you wanted to order whatever it is that you ordered, otherwise you'll be clueless when you open the box.

              (refilling my glass)

              1. re: Caralien

                You are TOO funny! I AM a container freak - accountant/MBA husband but that's almost as "bad" as an accountant. I glanced at it but I'm cooking dinner (and drinking!) so will wait til later for true study.

      2. That suribachi will make fantastic sesame paste, so don't toss it. Sesame paste makes a great base sauce for veggies or cold noodles, and there is no substitute for the fresh ground paste. Well, some of the Japanese brands are pretty good, nice and smooth, but of course, not near as fresh tasting.

        All that said, using the suribachi for other spices has driven me crazy. Fennel, cumin, and caraway in particular don't grind barely at all, something about the shape of the seeds. I have a granite mortar for those, works like a dream.

        3 Replies
        1. re: amyzan

          Is there a "recipe" for the sesame paste?

          1. re: c oliver

            My basic recipe is for vegetables for two people. If you're saucing noodles for two, you might want to double it, depending on how much you usually serve per person. Toast about three tablespoons sesame seeds until fragrant and golden. Let cool and grind fairly smooth. Add a couple teaspoons sugar and grind until smooth. Add shoyu a teaspoon at a time, grinding between each, to taste (2-3 tsp. of a traditional brew, but some may like it very mild at one teaspoon.) Add a teaspoon or two of rice vinegar to balance the sugar, and grind in. Add dashi a teaspoon at a time, grinding between each, to desired thickness. You can add or make alterations to this as you like: toban jian or sriracha, ginger juice, ume plum paste, strong black tea or even chicken broth substituting for the dashi, toasted sesame oil or minced scallion at the end. Black sesame seeds make a particularly striking sauce for green beans or steamed broccoli, especially if you're serving with a beautiful piece of fish. They're a little trickier to toast, only turning a different shade of black, so be watchful with them.

          2. re: amyzan

            My mother likes to use the suribachi for grinding TOASTED sesame seeds to make the Chinese Zhi Ma Hu 芝麻糊 - the black ,sesame hot cereal. I think you could grind toasted rice pretty easily, too, for thickening and add flavor to soups like Avogolemono.

            Raw cumin, caraway and such don't do well in the suribachi, as you all have mentioned.

          3. I have heard from a friend who knows her stuff that the Mason and Cash mortar and pestles are very very good and effective. Alas, I haven't the space for a "real" set.