Beyond Kawali: 6 Traditional Philippine Cooking VesselsOctober 22, 2019
As Filipino cuisine evolved, so did the cooking apparatuses used with it. Various vessels used by Filipinos at certain points in time tell stories of our history. Natives during the pre-colonial era used contraptions made out of bamboo. This was a time before locals learned to tame fire. Later on, earthenware of different sizes allowed for an expanded culinary repertoire; and the arrival of foreign nations introduced other cooking contrivances, such as porcelain pots and metal pans.
A particularly interesting detail about local cooking vessels are their regional adaptations. Many only vary in terminology—with some, understandably, used interchangeably. For example, kawali, kawa, and karajay all refer to metal wok-like pans; but are called differently depending on where you are. Some cooking apparatuses, on the other hand, are distinct from province to province. On this guide, we take a look at six traditional Filipino cookware.
Casuelas are earthen stewing pans of Spanish origin. These are wide flat-bottomed casseroles, often made with clay that’s later glazed. It’s widely used in urban Philippines, and is interchangeably known as caserola or calderon. Its various iterations over time have made it to encompass all cooking pots.
Gamay is a term used to describe an old-fashioned kettle. It has a wide body and a medium-long curved spout. Traditional versions were also made of earthenware; but later on, they were also crafted out of metal. Another old-style kettle to note is the buhoy, a narrow-mouth version.
Kawali, as mentioned, refers to metal wok-like cooking pans. The term was taken from the Chinese language, since the Chinese controlled the production of pans in the country for a time. Before that, though, the kawali was called kalahay, alluding to locally made cooking pans made from steel or iron. (If one looked for an imported one during the Spanish colonial period, he/she would refer using the Hispanic word carajay.)
Lutlut is a Tagbanwa term for bamboo cooking vessels. It’s similar to “luto,” the Filipino term for “to cook.” These bamboo cookware, which often come in tubes, were either buried in fire pits (a method common throughout Indo-China) or placed over an open flame. It was frequently used to cook rice—the charred bamboo telling one that the grains were ready. In 1521, Antonio Pigafetta wrote that rice prepared using bamboo tubes (called bonyoc in Tagalog) “lasts better than that cooked in earthen pots.”
Palayok is an umbrella term for clay cooking pots. In Tagalog, small pots are called anglit, while big pots are called katingan. These are made out of earthenware, a porous ceramic that allows steam to escape while cooking. Despite requiring high heat and long cook times, many still use palayok today because they effectively derive more flavor out of food, with a very low risk of burning.
A tacho is a flat-bottomed, two-handled pan traditionally used to make candies and syrups. It was introduced during the Spanish colonial era, at a time when the vessel was already commonly used in South America to make caramels. It’s the same, in both appearance and use, to the Chinese-style tulyasi.