Would you say a molcajete always gives superior results than a normal mortar and pestle?
I was looking at the molcajete from Williams-Sonoma:
Im sure it makes better guacamole than normal mortars but I was thinking that it was too porous and might affect the flavor of a pesto. Plus im thinking a marble mortar would produce a superior pesto as well.
I used to have a marble mortar... and i thought it was terrible, for most things I would do in the mortar (grinding spices, making a curry-type paste, etc...) I needed at least a little friction (roughness) between the pestle and the mortar, and the marble surface was just too smooth.
[Edit: I am thinking you are asking about the highly polished/veined white marble style of mortars]
It now sits prettily on the windowsill filled with sand as a "snuff pot" for extinguishing matches (when I light my vintage stove) or for sage/smuge sticks.
That said, I always make pesto in a mini food processor, and never tried pesto with mortar and pestle.
Actually, i feel a bit like the Goldilocks of the mortar and pestle sphere.
After the "too smooth" polished marble mortar failure, I swung to the other end of the spectrum (both in functionality and in price) and bought the black stone (again marble) one that Ikea sells... however, this one has deep circumferential grooves carved all over the inside, I thought this would give the traction I was looking for, but the grooves are so wide and deep, that they just trap food where the mortar can not reach it - also totally non-functional!
I'm not sure what to try next, for a "just right" in between harmonization of mortar design and material.
My two cents:
I own a molcajete and it gets used only occasionally, and only as a serving vessel. Reason being, no matter how many times I went through various laborious "seasoning" exercises, the thing still continued to throw off little chunks of rock into my food. Not good at all.
So I upgraded to a Thai mortar and pestle (made of granite) and I'm much happier. It's much larger than the molcajete, the pestle is much heavier -- so it does a lot of the work for you, and the granite does not chip off into my food. Only downside is that it's really heavy. But that I can live with.
Here's a link to something similar to what I have. Might even be the same one but I can't recall where I bought it: http://www.amazon.com/Stone-Granite-M...
Note that the interior is smooth, but not polished. So there is no issue with producing enough friction to get the job done.
I had to go and check mine as I bought it thinking it was the traditional rough textured one and come to find out it's not. SMH lol I may have acquired a thai mortar and pestle without realizing it. I do know that i didn't care for the rough texture and worried about food getting caught in the crevices. thanks for the link!
They're similar, but I regard them as different tools for different uses. The molcajete really is great for making guacamole and salsas. But for pesto, I'd opt for the mortar and pestle. The molcajete does need "seasoning" -- I seasoned mine with dry rice. It was a labor-intensive, tedious process, but once it was done, it was fine. By the way, I bought my molcajete at a local Mexican grocery store for less than a third of the price that W-S is charging.
Year ago we bought one while visiting Mexico.
Like Davis above, our is pure decoration today, as we found some of the volcanic grit came off inside while making guacamole.
A similar experience of the ancient Roman Mortariums, with embedded grit in the terra cotta, this is not something you want building up in your digestive system.