This regal yet slightly ominous looking contraption is a vili – a very old fashioned tool in both my mom and grandmother’s kitchens.
The vili was primarily used to cut vegetables. The curved blade would be pulled out in front of the wooden platform. You sat on the wooden platform and cut the vegetables, keeping a plate under the blade to keep the chopped pieces. And boy, have I seen women cutting with an ease that could challenge any professional chef with a fancy set of knives! Not for me though…I probably would have lost my fingers if I tried cutting on this blade.
The only reason I still have a vili is to grate coconuts. You break the coconut in half, and then position one half over the round serrated edge on the curved blade to grate the coconut. It may sound complicated but is incredibly easy and manages to produce beautiful coconut flakes.
I have tried all the modern devices, the kind that have a suction under the main body which always seems to come loose right when you’re trying to get to the heart of the coconut! The hand held scrapers don’t work for me at all. And then for a while I even got fresh grated coconut from the seller at Tekka market in Singapore. But because he keeps the coconut chunks exposed, the grated coconut gets rancid very quickly.
Frustrated I finally asked my mother to bring a vili for me on her next trip to Singapore and it now proudly sits on my kitchen counter.