If you want to cook great Asian cuisine, you need to have the right tools in your kitchen. Here is my list of Top 10 “must-have” kitchen items for Asian cooking:
1. Cast Iron Wok
Instead of having multiple pots and pans, a wok is all you will ever need for Chinese cooking. You can stir-fry, deep-fry, steam, boil, blanch using your wok. It’s so versatile! Once properly seasoned, it will be naturally “non-stick”. It’s almost impossible to replicate certain Chinese dishes using a regular non-stick pan because the wok can withstand much higher temperatures than a non-stick pan; and most Chinese dishes do call for very high heat.
If your wok has a flat base, you’ll be able to utilize it on your electric or glass-top stove; but if you have a traditional wok with a round base, you will need a Wok Ring to hold the wok in place over the burner.
2. Bamboo Wok Brush
Like a cast iron skillet, you should not clean your cast iron wok with soap. Soap will remove the oils that are much needed in order to properly season your wok. Simply rinse the wok with hot water, use a wok brush to remove any bits of food stuck on the surface, then immediately put it over the burner to dry it completely. You may be thinking: “No soap? Gross!” No worries. The high heat kills all of the germy germs so this is completely safe.
3. Wok Spatula & Ladle
A wok goes hand in hand with a wok spatula and ladle. You’ll use just the spatula most of the time, but the ladle comes in handy for soups, sauces, etc. A bamboo or wooden spatula just does not cut it with wok cooking. This spatula should never be used on a non-stick pan, but will be your wok’s best friend.
4. Bamboo Skimmer
A bamboo skimmer or strainer comes in really handy when deep-frying food. Not only can you pick up more of the food in one scoop, you don’t have to worry about draining the oil off the food on the side of your wok. You can just pick it right up, and transfer it straight to your cooling rack. A skimmer also can be used for blanching food like veggies and noodles.
5. Deep-fry/Tempura Rack
Deep frying will no longer be a chore with your wok, bamboo skimmer, and a tempura rack combo. The tempura rack fits right over your wok. Simply pick up the fried food using your bamboo skimmer and place it on the tempura rack. Any excess oil from the food will drip right back into the wok. Genius! You can also use a cooling rack over a cookie sheet, but that would be just one more item to clean up when you’re done cooking.
6. Electric Rice Cooker
A lot of Asian dishes are served with rice. Yes, you could cook rice over a stovetop but using a rice cooker makes it SO much more convenient. You get perfectly cooked rice every single time with just a press of a button. Plus, you can cook the rice ahead of time and use the “keep warm” function to keep it warm all day!
7. Chinese cleaver
The cleaver may look really intimidating but once you’re used to it, you’ll LOVE how versatile this knife is. It can chop, dice, julienne, mince….everything!
8. Bamboo Steamers
Bamboo steamers are primarily used for steaming dim sum but you can steam just about anything that you can fit into the steamer. All you need to do is boil some water in your wok and place the bamboo steamer right over it (make sure you leave about a couple of inches between the boiling water and the steamer). Use Bamboo Steamer Liners for quick and easy clean-up!
9. Mortar and Pestle
A mortar and pestle is used to grind spices, make pastes, etc. I love to use it to mince garlic and to make sambal (ground chilies). Some flavors can’t be replicated using a food processor.
10. Chinese Clay Pot
Because clay pots retain their heat so well, they are perfect for braising meats. The flavor that you get from claypot dishes is unparalleled. Soak your new claypot in your kitchen sink overnight, then scrub the inside of the pot and the lid. Always soak the clay pot for about half an hour before each use. Start on low heat for a few minutes, then raise the temperature to medium heat. Not too high or the pot might crack.