Fig – Architect’s Design for a “dry” kitchen – http://tdaarchitects.com/portfolio/proposed-residence-at-bandaragama/
As an architect, I always get a query to clarify what is “wet kitchen” and “Dry Kitchen”. Some refer simply, Kitchen and pantry. It seems that most don’t know the difference of this, and its relation to the Sri Lankan context. So, as an explanation, I thought of writing this blog post.
Well, according to Oxford dictionary, the kitchen is simply defined as “a room in which meals are cooked or prepared”
So, there’s no rocket science, simply kitchen is all about dealing with food preparation; i.e. cuisines native to a country or a geographic region. Again, the Oxford dictionary defines “cuisine” as “a style or method of cooking, especially as a characteristic of a particular country or region”.
Therefore, the characteristics shapes as per the distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes, and usually associated with a specific culture or geographic region.
The Sri Lankan and Asian Cooking Culture
Asia represents vast geographic, socioeconomic, biological, and cultural diversity. This is also reflected in the dietary diversity of traditional foods. Traditional foods encompass those foods that have been nurtured, have sustained, and have promoted through generations since time immemorial (Harmayani, et al., 2019).
With this same perspective, Sri Lanka too has its own culture of food tradition. According to World Atlas (https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/sri-lankan-food.html) :
The island nation of Sri Lanka is best known as the Island of Rice and Curry. The main feature of the country’s cuisine is steamed or boiled rice served with other dishes such as vegetables, chicken, fish, or mutton curry. Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped over the years by several cultural and historical factors among other factors. Contact with foreigners has also helped in the shaping of the country’s cuisines. However, rice, spices, and coconut remain Sri Lanka’s staples. The country’s cooking delivers some of the unique and incredible dishes. Below are some of the most celebrated Sri Lankan foods.
As Sri Lanka is an island country, and is located on ancient sea route of economic belt, with agriculture based ancient social system, has shaped and evolved its food tradition through centuries. Now, all these cultures are mixed up and we would prefer exploring new dishes at home to fill our hungry tummies. The popularity of many YoutubeTM Sri Lankan cooking channels convey this.
The needs of a kitchen
As we explore more recipes, we would require many techniques, and our present day kitchen basically facilitate frying, boiling, baking, cooking, and various other activities, where chefs or house wives are experts in. To make things more complicated, our traditional cuisines also makes an impact to this. The best example is the ways of cooking fish curries, which depends on basic geographic locations and traditions.
As mentioned before, spice based curries is a staple food add-on in Sri Lanka. All these food preparation may, most of the times result in various strong smells, sometimes greasy waste generation, which is common in most Sri Lankan domestic kitchens. Further, many tools are been used, ranging from simple traditional instruments such as මිරිස් ගල/වංගෙඩිය to more complex electronic devices like microwave, etc.
And, to be honest, our kitchens are most of the times tend to get wet, dirty, and all the times tend to become blackish, especially if we are using the wood stove or even if using a gas stove without an extractor hood. As we all see in TV ads, ” දැලි කුණු වදයට විසඳුම්” approach shows how greasy sometimes our dishes are. Thus, after a meal, the poor kitchen sink becomes a pile of dirty dishes.
In an attempt to prevent this, the “wet and dry” design concept of kitchens have emerged especially in the Asian region. A wet and dry kitchen, simply put, is a kitchen layout that splits the full kitchen into two sections for different, express use.
Sometimes, this concept is not so popular in the USA and other regions because it was born out of a necessity not idiosyncratic to that country.
The layout of the wet and dry kitchen is unique to each architect, and is shaped up with the user’s key requirements and expectations. Usually, the two kitchen spaces are framed next to each other or as sublets of each other so there’s no traveling between the two.
The “Wet” Kitchen
The “Wet” kitchen is the most familiar kitchen we all know. It is the more functional kitchen reserved for the heavy / greasy cooking, and resembles more commercial features, like tiled walls and floors, exhaust hoods over the ovens, great ventilation, larger windows, and deeper sinks. Occasionally, you can find wet and dry kitchens with varying counters as well, with more durable countertops throughout the wet kitchen, like granite instead of quartz or laminate.
The “Dry” Kitchen
As the name implies, the “Dry kitchen” is most of the times is dry, thus do not impose into hard works mentioned above do not take place here. It’s the “lite” kitchen and often equipped with smaller heating devices like microwaves and toaster ovens, the dry kitchen serves as the breakfast and / or snacks cooking place.
Imagine, a busy day where all the family members are going to work and school. In the morning, it’s a hassle. House wife and sometimes, the husband is stuck at the kitchen, maybe preparing whole day food, and sometimes cereals/toasted items, etc for the breakfast. This depends on the family style. Some families takes the breakfast in a “fast food” manner and some prefer cereals, salads, etc rather than going on hard dishes. The main reason sometimes is due to nutrition beliefs, or simply lack of time. For the latter purpose, a simple dry kitchen would be enough.
Further, if you are a constant hungry guy like me, always looking for something to chew, a snack kiosk kind of space is a must to the house. That allows me to simply makeup some quick snacks or just put my hand in a jar and take some candies. Or, maybe, make a cup of coffee, if you are a night owl like me. Personally, I don’t prefer to go to the kitchen to make a snack, and it would be convenient to me to have a separate space for that task. If you are in the same boat, high five!! The dry kitchen is for us folks!!
And further, if you are a cocktail fan, all the gimmicks you try to do with cocktails won’t match with the straightforward traditional kitchen, thus, would require a small “bar” space. That will allow you to showcase your talents of beverages to your friends. Obviously, I won’t ask my friends to come inside my always wet and dirty kitchen to see my talents of cocktails.
This shows, that, the “dry” kitchen is more community based and our traditional kitchens are not very welcoming to the guests. I hope you all get my whole point here. Thus, it usually is decked with counters and sinks like any other kitchen. By the same time, it occupies with some bar stools also for the folks. However, most of the times, the space is smaller.
Since our dry kitchen is based on community, it is directly linked to the living area and often equipped with more elegant designs, finishes of flooring, with a decorative look like wood, rather than utilitarian tiles of the wet kitchen.
So, I hope you got the basic understanding about the difference between wet and dry kitchen. So, you are the user of your house. Your house should be programmed according to your family life style, expectations and convenience. Therefore, with this understanding, you can talk with your Architect, maybe even think of hybrid methods.
This is an area that lacks research in architectural academics where novel materials, concepts should be experimented throughout in relation to the vivid cultures of Sri Lankan context.
Waiting for a better tomorrow!