kitchen utensils, spice and tools

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Someone asked me today what would be the basic kitchen utensils or ingredients that you need to cook any asian food. Basically, you can either build up a semi professional kitchen and spend a lot of money, or use what you have and you’ll still be surprised that it does work out. The most important factor in your kitchen is getting the correct spices, and the method on how you prepare it. How long you fry, cook or steam is the deepest secret to preparing up a fantastic meal.  But take heart. It takes a little practice until you get everything right, for some it takes a few tries but then we are all a part of it.

Let’s start with a small glossary of common spices:

  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Dark soy sauce or
  • kecap manis (dark sweet soy sauce, originating from indonesia)
  • lemon grass
  • lime leaves (daun limau / jeruk perut)
  • coriander seeds
  • cloves
  • chillies / dried or fresh
  • curry paste / powder – or make your own in advance and store to use for the future
  • Galangal
  • Ginger
  • Shitaki mushrooms
  • Banana leaves
  • Pandan leaves (Screwpine leaves)
  • Black fungus
  • Belachan (prawn paste)

… and so on. Salt and pepper is more seldomly used in the asian cuisine. Instead, we use the soy sauce, dark or light and the fish sauce. You do not have to get all these ingredients to start off, just some suggestions.

Cooking utensils you could use are:

  • Wok
  • Steamer
  • Chopper
  • Claypot
  • Mortel
  • Spice mill

I use my frying pan instead when I don’t have a wok which does give me similiar results, and a big sharp knife. There are other methods of steaming, especially when you don’t want to buy a steamer just to try out one recipe. Take a huge pot, put a flat plate with some water in it, and put your food you’d like to steam in a bowl on that plate. Cover the pot. That’s it. If you don’t have a mortal, a food processor will do the job for you too. There is a tiny differance though. The food processor blends everything finely together, but the mortal pounds out everything from the ingredients, making it a little juicier. It’s hard work and messy but very traditional and authentic.

I’ve made very good experiences while cooking with gas fires. The heat of the wok is very high with these fires and once the food is done, you remove the wok from the fire ensureing that no further cooking is processing. Usually woks for gas stoves do not come with a 18/10 bottom. If you have an electric stove, you’re better off with any pans with a thick 18/10 sandwich bottom. W ith it, heat remains at the bottom where your food continues to cook even after you have removed them from the fire. It may help if you transfer the food to a plate to stop further cooking.

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