Tag: utensils

Ten things I cannot do without in the kitchen (part 2 of 2)

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Aaand part 2 of my 10 kitchen essentials (part 1 is here).

6. Wok: my multi-purpose frying pan. Woks, strictly speaking, don’t really work well on an electric stove–which means I didn’t bother to buy a carbon steel or aluminium or fancy one. Basically, I have a wok-shaped frying pan, which may not exude the breath of the wok but is darn handy for approximate sautéed noodles and various other preparations. The one accessory I did buy was a multi-format lid like this one , which basically fits all our sizes of frying pans. It’s handy for a number of uses, not the least of which is steaming food within the pan.

7. Rice cooker: not worth introducing this one anymore. We bought a really fancy one, but in the end what we mainly use is the rice cooker function, and the steaming basket (very handy for dim sum and bánh bao, which have a tendency to stick like limpets to a metal steamer. Though a trick I saw last Saturday at the Chinese restaurant was putting your dim sum on top of a large carrot slice, which served the double purpose of looking pretty and preventing stickiness).

8. Lemon reamer: I got my wooden lemon reamer from Habitat at clearance prices (my sis will, I’m sure, remember the time when I crossed Madrid on a metro just to buy it 🙂 ). We have (or used to have) a juicer, but it doesn’t work very well on limes or lemons because they’re broadly longer than larger, and the juicer broadly made for oranges which tend to be as long as they are large. I ream a lot of limes because they’re a basic ingredient of the ubiquitous nước mắm dipping sauce; but never really more than a few at a time (otherwise I’d invest in a squeezer or something more appropriate), and it’s nice to have something which helps you get juice out of a lime in one minute flat. My reamer looks a bit like this.

9. Maryse: a maryse is a very particular kind of spatula; I’ve looked around a bit but haven’t found an English equivalent (if any reader of this blog knows, please speak up!) It’s a (flexible) rectangle which enables you to scrape from a pan or salad bowl. It looks a bit like this (the left-hand one; the right-hand one is what we’d call a “demi-maryse”). It’s invaluable for any kind of pastry, as it enables you to get almost all your dough from the bowl where you mixed it (or all your chocolate from the saucepan in which you melted it, etc.), but I’ve also found it handy for cleaning out pans with mashed potatoes or any kind of semi-tough preparation that doesn’t have the good grace to come flowing out of the pan. One of those tools that my husband doesn’t see the use of (he goes for a spoon or a normal spatula), but that I use all the time.

10. Pastry brush: very very handy for making xá xíu pork or for bánh mì chiên tôm (shrimp toast). I got a silicone one because there was no way I was hunting down for bristles in my barbecued pork. It’s one of those things that I don’t use often but that’s really handy to have in the kitchen when I do. Mine is a bit like this, but with a metal handle instead of a wooden one, which means I can chuck it in the dishwasher directly.

And that’s the end of my list. What about you? Other things I’ve missed that you feel should be on this list?

Ten things I cannot do without in the kitchen (part 1 of 2)

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So… I thought it would be a nice addition to the blog to list those items that I use most in the kitchen. By and large, I haven’t listed the really esoteric stuff (and while I do use a food processor from time to time, the H hasn’t yet convinced me that my future lies in embracing it. Mostly because it’s a lot of hassle to clean…). I’ve provided links to amazon, not to endorse stuff, but mostly because short of taking pictures of everything it was the handiest way to show you what my appliances look like (I’m very peculiar about some stuff, as you’ll see).

(and yes, I haven’t been cooking enough to provide a recipe and needed a cooking post. How did you guess?)

1. 13-inch wooden chopsticks: very handy for anything from beating eggs to fishing blanched carrots out of boiling water. There’s much, much larger models for deep-frying and wok cooking, but I’ve always found them rather unwieldy for everyday cooking.

2. Garlic press: I know there’s a big debate on whether it’s a good idea to use a garlic press. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no debate at all. I need chopped-up garlic almost every evening, and I don’t need to make the taste of the garlic milder (who’d want to do that?). I could use item #3 on my list (mortar and pestle) to make a purée, but when I just have a few cloves to mash it’s just easier to reach for the press, which is much lighter and cleans more easily. I got my garlic press from the Chinese district in Paris for a ridiculously low amount of money, but if I had to buy one again, I’d pick one where the grid of small holes detaches (makes it way easier to clean up), and make sure that it’s sturdy enough and heavy enough. Mine looks a lot like this except not at that price point.

3. Granite mortar and pestle: handy for mashing ginger (which I do for about one meal in three or one meal in two), puréeing large amounts of garlic, or grinding spices. I used to have an olive wood one and basically never touched it; for some things you just need stone. I was told that the sound of the pestle hitting the mortar was one way families picked out their future daughters-in-law in Ancient Vietnam: it had to be regular, thereby proving that the owner knew how to cook. Makes sense, seeing how useful the thing is for everyday cooking! Mine is a 5″ model (I think it’s the outer diameter?), which is a nice compromise between being light enough for me to lug it to the sink, and large enough to handle what I put in it. Though if I had to buy another one, I might go for a 6″ model. Looks exactly like this (and probably was imported from the same place).

4. Chopping knife: my weapon of choice here is a 15cm-Santoku knife. The H and I differ quite wildly in our handling of kitchen knifes: he’s used to a chef’s knife, but for some reason the Santoku just sits more easily in my hand (I suspect it’s more congruent with both the shape of my hand as well as what I expect from a knife). I have a metal one; have to admit that if I hit jackpot sell my novel, I might very well invest in a high-quality ceramic one.

5. Angled measuring glass: someone sold me on the 2-cup Oxo angled measuring glass a couple years ago, and I haven’t looked back. Compared to my old measuring glass, it has three advantages. One is that the angle makes it much easier to see what you’re measuring from above as well as from the sides; the second is that it’s handily graduated in imperial and in metric (my old glass, like many French glasses, was by weight of what you were measuring, like flour or chocolate or sugar); the third is that the metric scale indicates the first 10 mL (which is really useful for small amounts of liquid and avoids me juggling with tablespoons and teaspoons). I see, though, that the version for sale on amazon.com doesn’t really seem to have #3 on my list, which is odd?

And that’s all for this week–tune in next week for the next five items on the list 🙂

What about you? What items couldn’t you do without in the kitchen?

(part 2 of this list is here)