The new Kuwali on display at the Tembi Museum of the Cultural House

The only users of kuwali are food traders, such as soto with the label soto kuwali, traders of gudheg, porridge, and others. Meanwhile, rural residents who use this tool stay only when there is a need for a celebration.

Kuwali, kwali or in Indonesian called belanga, is a cooking utensil that is often used by Javanese people in the past. But now, the existence of this tool has been replaced by more modern equipment, such as pots, pans, magiccoms, rice cookers, and the like. Of course, this change in goods is due to modernization and due to the times.

At least Kuwali was still widely used by the Javanese people before the independence of the Republic of Indonesia until the 1970s. In fact, this term has been recorded in the Javanese dictionary “Boesastra Java” written by WJS. Poerwadarminta in 1939. This proves that this item was widely used by the Javanese, especially at that time, as utensils for cooking vegetables or water, as stated on page 240.

Indeed, until now there are still people who use kuwali as kitchen utensils, but it is very rare. Usually, there are only food vendors who use kuwali, such as soto with the label soto kuwali, gudheg traders, porridge, and others. Meanwhile, rural residents who use this tool stay only when there is a need for a celebration. Some residents of the older generation who still have this tool, when Tembi surveyed, no longer used it for cooking purposes, but only as a backup tool if at any time there was a need that required large quantities of food.

There are many reasons why traders still use kuwali as a tool for cooking, ranging from maintaining a taste that is close to natural, more hygienic, or wanting to bring back old equipment. They believe that using this traditional tool made of clay or pottery, it will bring out a more delicious taste, because the ingredients are made from natural materials, not metal.

Unfortunately, with the progress of the times, the number of potters, called kundhis, is decreasing. Many pottery makers have turned to other professions. This is because traditional kitchen utensils, such as kuwali and the like, are already under pressure and cannot compete with more modern kitchen utensils, which are made of aluminum, brass, and the like.

Kuwali belongs to residents who are no longer used, and a new kuwali with a lid

Indeed, there are still centers for making kuwali and other pottery items left, 2 of which can be mentioned in the Kasongan and Pundong areas, Bantul, DIY. In these centers, apart from still producing traditional kitchen utensils, they also produce pottery which is cultivated and the results are more modern. Meanwhile, the marketing of kuwali is also increasingly limited, staying in traditional markets and stalls. One or two are still found by traders as well as producers who go around peddling this tool.

The formal institution as the last bastion to guard this item called kuwali is the museum. In this place, kuwali is one of the collections that needs to be preserved because it is one of the products made by humans, especially the Javanese people. Of course, the museums that store collections of kuwali are museums that store collections of Javanese ethnographic objects. Several museums in Yogyakarta that hold collections of kuwali, include the Sonobudoyo State Museum, the Indonesian Javanese Farmers Museum, and the Tembi Rumah Budaya.

Kuwali made of clay is easy to break. For this reason, the user must be very careful, both when using it for cooking, cleaning it, and in storing it. Because once broken or cracked, it can no longer be used and must be thrown away. It can’t even be patched.

Kuwali made of clay is easy to break. For this reason, the user must be very careful, both when using it for cooking, cleaning it, and in storing it. Because once broken or cracked, it can no longer be used and must be thrown away. It can’t even be patched.

New medium size

The existence of Kuwali or pots made of clay or clay is increasingly being pushed by similar equipment made of metal, such as copper, aluminum, and so on. However, until now there are still Javanese people who use kuwali for cooking, especially on a large scale or for selling vegetables and food. The main reason, as has been said in the previous edition, they choose kuwali for cooking has to do with taste. Why is that?

The upper part of the kuwali has lips with large holes, the lower part is convex, and is thicker than similar tools made of metal. Because it is thick, the way of cooking it tends to use firewood, charcoal, and the like, to make it more economical too. Although the result is a dirty impact on the kuwali mat. These natural ingredients have no effect on the processed products.

For processed food sellers who are accustomed to using kuwali and firewood for cooking, they will maintain it so that the taste of the processed food produced is maintained. So that customers are not disappointed. Because, often, when the seller replaces it with another cooking utensil (albeit with the same recipe), customers feel a change in the taste of the food. Some gudheg sellers in Yogyakarta, especially the older generation, usually still maintain that taste by using kuwali to cook their gudheg. Of course also in various other areas in Java, still found the same thing.

Indeed, the price of kuwali (with traditional production and form) is cheaper when compared to similar cooking utensils made of metal. The price varies, around Rp 5,000-Rp 20,000 depending on the size. Some are 26 cm in diameter and 17 cm high, and some are smaller or larger.

Kundi or pottery makers (including kuwali) have also experienced a decline in numbers in line with the increasing scarcity of kuwali users. This profession has existed for a long time, at least before the era of the Majapahit kingdom. The proof, many artifacts found in the form of similar containers which are relics of the Majapahit kingdom era.

The manufacture of kuwali goes through several processes, starting from taking raw materials, forming, drying, burning, to cooling. After that, it was marketed to various places, such as traditional markets and simple stalls. So that the cooking results do not smell of earth or the kuwali is not easily broken, then there are various tricks to get rid of the smell of the earth in the new kuwali. Some people smear the new kuwali with water tajin (the rest of the water for cooking rice). After that it is heated until it boils or burns. Then silence for a while. Then soak a day. Only then cleaned with coconut fiber until clean. Can only be used for cooking.

There are also those who use the method of mixing water and rice bran in a new kuwali before using it. Then heated until the bran boils and overflows. After that just cleaned and kuwali ready to use. Another way is to mix water with grated coconut, then cook it until it boils. Then cleaned. Another way is to just boil water in a new kuwali, then use it for cooking.

Meanwhile, the method of cleaning kuwali is usually by using kawul (shrunk wood residue) mixed with water, then rubbed with teak leaves or used plastic, then rinsed. These methods are carried out by community members who live in several areas in Bantul DIY, such as Imogiri and Parangtritis.

Kuwali treatment after use is also usually placed on the bottom shelf made of wood or bamboo. The rack in Javanese is called paga. The way to put it must also be prone, because the base of the kuwali is convex. In addition, to make it easy to take.

Want to experience high-quality traditional cuisine with a kuwali cooking utensil? Come to Yogyakarta!

Source: Tembi-1 and Tembi-2

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