Wooden girl from the UGM Wanagama Wood Museum collection
Yes, cowek is one of the traditional cooking tools that are still often found and used by households as one of the accessories for cooking in the kitchen. Perhaps, the kitchens are now modern, but this tool still exists in use. Especially for residents in rural areas, it is clear that this tool is always present in daily cooking activities.
Besides boys, Javanese people often call them decent. In Indonesian it is called cobek. Not much different. However, according to WJS Poerwadarminta in the Javanese dictionary “Baoesastra Java” (1939) distinguishes between the meanings of boys and decent. In the dictionary, on page 257, it is stated that the term decent is to refer to a large boy. However, it is not clearly stated how many centimeters the large size is. Meanwhile, the term cowek, as explained on page 647, is described as a small layah used to make sambal or a kind of small plate. However, in general, Javanese society today does not really distinguish the terms decent and male.
Generally, the worthy or the cowk is made of stone or earthenware. It is similar in shape to a plate, but thicker (especially the rocky boy). The diameter of the boy is about 20 cm. Some are smaller or larger. While the height is about 7 cm. The base is flat, for easy placing on the floor or other pedestal. The male or female partner is called munthu or uleg-uleg. Munthu is made of stone or wood. The stone munthu is for the masonry layah, while the wooden munthu is for the pottery or clay masonry.
This traditional kitchen tool is still commonly found in household kitchens. Most still use this tool. The main function of layah or cowek is to crush kitchen spices or to make chili sauce. Kitchen spices that need to be crushed or softened, this tool is suitable for use. Usually the spices that need to be crushed for cooking and making chili sauce are shallots, garlic, mrica, coriander, turmeric, salt, brown sugar, chili, candlenut, tomatoes, and others.
However, nowadays there is also a modern spice grinder, no need for extra energy to pulverize and it is starting to be widely used, especially for pulverizing large amounts of spices. What tool is that? We will see in the next edition.
Even though the existence of cowek or mortar is now being pushed by modern equipment to crush spices and chili sauce, cowek still exists and is needed by most housewives or food stalls. Presumably the existence of a boy is irreplaceable, especially for matters of taste. Especially for chili preparations.
Many people feel that the processed sambal, which is softened with cowk, tastes better, when compared to a modern blender or milling machine. Crushing spices with this tool is definitely easier. For the softness of the results, the blender wins. But in terms of taste, many say that the sambal and seasonings taste better “pulled” with a boy. Is it because of the ingredients used, that makes the taste different?
Household stone girl
What is clear is that the spices or chili sauce that come into contact with the stone or clay cowek will be different from the taste of the spices or chili sauce that comes into contact with a blender or milling machine made of iron, steel, or stainless steel. That is why, stone or clay boys remain the main choice for households or the majority of culinary stalls that serve sambal as part of the main menu.
Even in serving chili sauce, cowek is included as a place for chili sauce. It indicates that the culinary stalls want to maintain the taste of the sambal which is kneaded with traditional tools.
The lottery seller is a single female user. The size of the boy used is not half-hearted, can be more than 30 cm in diameter. Especially if when making an order lotek, once you make over 10 portions. So in order to quickly serve, use a large boy.
One of the lotek and gado-gado stalls in Yogyakarta that is famous for its big boys is the lotek teteg stall, east of Yogyakarta’s Lempuyangan Station.
Even though there are already rivals for girls with similar tools that are more modern, up to now, the production and marketing of girls is still common. Almost in every area there are producers and sales of boys.
Around Jalan Raya Muntilan, Central Java, is one of the centers for the production of stone boys. In tourist spots, there are also many souvenirs or souvenirs in the form of stone boys. Likewise in traditional markets and supermarkets, it is also easy to find this one tool.
Moreover, the price of stone or clay boys is cheaper when compared to modern tools. There is a set of one (1) set of stone girls that costs Rp. 25,000. Of course the bigger it is, the more expensive it is. For pottery, the price can be cheaper, not more than Rp. 10,000 for a set.
What is clear, the existence of this one kitchen tool has existed hundreds of years ago. Not infrequently in ancient sites, there are also many earthenware artifacts, one of which is a boy. How long will this tool be used? Of course, until the user creates another similar tool that can maintain the taste of the traditional cowek.